Author Archive

Is a Housing Boom Coming?

November 19, 2019

Stephen McBride, a contributor for Forbes magazine, posted an October article titled, “The Biggest Housing Boom In History Has Just Begun.” McBride approaches the subject from an investor perspective, but as someone employed in the home finance world, the article is very relevant to my job.

One of McBride’s sources stated, “The most important driver of home prices is supply and demand.  And right now, there is a chronic undersupply of homes in America.”  Since the late 1950’s, the US has seen an average of 1.5 million homes built annually, according to Census Bureau data.  However, since the Great Recession started in 2008, new home construction has averaged only 900,000 units annually.  That’s a shortfall of 600,000 off the historical annual average for 10 years now.  So we have a cumulative undersupply of 6,000,000 homes relative to historical data.  The article goes on to state, “fewer homes were built in the last decade than any decade since the ’50’s.”

On the demand side, the focus is the Millennial cohort.  The Millennials are the largest generation in American history.  Now the median age of the Millennial cohort is 34.  This historical average age of people buying their first home is 33.  According to the National Association of Realtors, one-third of home buyers are now Millennials.  The article goes on to state that “Every year for the next decade, tens of millions of Millennials will hit home buying age.”

Put these two factors together and you have a tight housing supply coupled with increasing demand.  Supply and demand analysis therefore predicts that home prices will rise.  (This makes me want to buy another house or two!)

I earned my economics degree a long time ago, but the supply and demand basics have not changed.  This appears to be the perfect storm for rising home prices.  And that could mean significant wealth growth for home owners over the next several years.

Want to get into the market now while mortgage rates are near historic lows and before home values start rising quickly again?  Give me a call at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We will get you prequalified quickly and help you close with the best financing for your current situation.  You can buy a home with a minimum 3% to 3.5% down payment and a credit score of 620+.  Now could be the perfect time for you to buy a home.

Home Affordability at its Highest Point in Years

November 1, 2019

According to a recent report by Black Knight, Inc., home affordability reached its best level in years in August 2019.  This follows a consistent decline in home affordability from late 2016 through late 2018.  Home affordability hit a nine-year low in November 2018, as mortgage rates rose to the 5% range.  At that time, the national home payment to income ratio rose to 23.7%.  According to Black Rock, this led to an extended slow down in home price growth.

Since November 2018, mortgage rate declines plus this slower home appreciation has greatly improved home affordability.  The national payment to income ratio has dropped to 20.7%.  This ratio means that the monthly principal and interest (P&I) payment on an average-priced home now requires only 20.7% of the national median income.

Put another way, interest rate declines between November 2018 and August 2019 has increased home buying power by about $46,000. In August 2019, a home buyer would pay the same P&I amount on a $246,000 home mortgage as she would have paid on a $200,000 home mortgage in November 2018.

On the other hand, I found websites and recent articles showing that Atlanta-area rents have risen around 4% in the preceding 12 months.  In short, owning a home in Atlanta has gotten more affordable while renting has gotten more expensive.

Do you rent your home in Georgia?  Has your rent increased making money tight?  Give me a call and let’s talk about mortgage affordability.  You don’t need perfect credit to buy a home, and you will need only a minimum 3% to 3.5% for your down payment.  (Military veterans can obtain VA loans with a 0% down payment.)  With the current low mortgage rates, you might be able to buy more home than you thought you could, for a lower monthly payment than you thought you would have to make.  And with buying a home, you will get the equity / wealth benefits from potential home appreciation.  It’s a GREAT time to buy a home in Georgia!!

Is It Time to Refinance An FHA Mortgage?

October 11, 2019

As discussed previously, using an FHA loan to buy a home makes sense for home buyers with relatively low credit scores and limited down payment funds. FHA loans offer very attractive pricing for these home buyers.

Interest rates have now fallen to their lowest level in three years, so it may be time for current FHA mortgage holders to consider a conventional mortgage refinance. The interest rate savings may not be huge, but changing from FHA mortgage insurance to private mortgage insurance could bring significant financial benefits.

I’m working with a couple now (we’ll call them Jack and Diane) who bought their home in 2017.  At that time, their qualifying credit score was in the mid-600’s and they had just enough cash for the FHA minimum down payment.  This was an ideal scenario for an FHA mortgage.

Fast forward to 2019 – their credit scores have increased and home appreciation in their neighborhood has given them more equity.  A conventional loan now makes sense for their updated situation.  They can refinance to a new interest rate that is just 0.25% less than their current rate.  Normally such a small monthly savings, by itself, does not justify the cost of refinancing.

In addition to the interest rate savings, they will also save money every month with lower mortgage insurance payments.  Switching from their FHA loan to a conventional loan will lower the mortgage insurance monthly premiums by about $120.  Their total monthly savings equal $160, and their refinance has a break-even point of just over two years.  Considering the interest rate savings plus the mortgage insurance savings makes their refinance worthwhile.

An added benefit is that their new private mortgage insurance will cancel in a few years (unlike the FHA insurance which is permanent), increasing their monthly savings to about $200. So, Jack and Diane will realize this bonus savings in just a few years.

Ultimately, home buyers who used an FHA loan two or three years ago may reap big rewards from a conventional refinance now, assuming their property value has increased.

Ron moved into your neighborhood in the last three years or so. At the neighborhood Halloween party, ask Ron if he has heard of an FHA mortgage. If he replies, “Yes, that’s the type of loan I have,” ask him if he would like to lower his monthly payment.  Then connect Ron with me.  We will quickly determine whether moving to a conventional mortgage can help Ron financially.

American Homebuying Power Grows

September 26, 2019

Overall economic circumstances keep improving for potential homebuyers.  First American’s Real House Price Index (RHPI) shows that Americans’ homebuying power increased consistently from January through July 2019.  The index tracks single-family home price changes adjusted for mortgage interest rate changes and personal income changes.

Mortgage interest rates trended downward during the first half of 2019, and they are even lower now compared to mid-year.  First American reported mortgage rates in January were 4.5%, and rates moved into the 3’s over the summer.  Average household income increased over the same time period.

Decreasing mortgage rates combined with increasing household incomes provide a double boost to Americans’ home buying power.  The Index’s “house-buying power” for consumers increased roughly 10% from January through July.  According to First American’s Chief Economist, Mark Fleming, “House-buying power is at the highest it’s been since we began tracking it in 1991.”

That means now is a great time to buy a home!  Even though home prices have been increasing, the decrease in mortgage rates coupled with household income growth make right now the best time to buy a home in almost 30 years, based on the RHPI measures.

Do you have a Georgia friend who complains about a landlord who won’t fix problems?  Let them know that their homebuying power is stronger than it has been in decades, and connect them with me.  I’ll help them obtain the best home mortgage for their unique situation as quickly as possible.  I’ll help your friend take advantage of today’s really low mortgage rates before they increase to 2018 levels or even higher.  Together, we will fire their unresponsive landlord!

Millennial Home Ownership Survey

September 19, 2019

There are some interesting facts and observations in an August article documenting survey results from Millennial home buyers.  Here’s a link to the full study from lendedu.com.  1,000 people aged 23 to 38 participated in the survey.  Here are some survey results:

  • 58% of respondents say they own their own home.
  • 83% of these home owners obtained a mortgage to buy their home.
  • 75% of these mortgage holders obtained a FHA loan.
  • 16% is the average down payment percentage for the survey respondents.

To me, it is very surprising to me that such a high percentage of these home buyers used the FHA program, especially given the relatively high down payment percentage reported.  What I also find surprising is how the author treats FHA loans vis a vis the private mortgage insurance component of conventional mortgages.

Let’s look at the basics of FHA mortgage insurance (“MI”) vs. conventional (private) mortgage insurance (“PMI”).  FHA charges a 1.75% up-front MI.  On a $300,000 loan, that charge is $5,250.  Assuming a Millennial average 16% down payment, FHA charges a 0.80% monthly MI premium, which equals $200 per month.  And for this loan, the borrower must pay the monthly MI for 11 years.

For PMI on conventional loans, there is no up-front fee.  So our $300,000 mortgage holder is better off by $5,250 to start.  The PMI premium is based on the combination of down payment and the borrower’s credit score.  Let’s assume that a Millennial buyer (we’ll call her “Anna”) has a 680 credit score.  I calculate Anna’s monthly PMI premium at 0.26% or $65 per month.  In addition, the conventional loan PMI will cancel sooner than FHA MI, so Anna will pay conventional loan PMI for less than half the time she would pay FHA loan MI.

Summarizing this example, Anna with a 680 credit score would reap the following mortgage insurance benefits of choosing a conventional loan vs. FHA: (1) Anna saves $5,250 by not having the up-front FHA MI premium rolled into the loan amount; (2) Anna saves $135 per month with the lower PMI rate vs. the FHA MI rate; and (3) Anna stops making mortgage insurance payments way sooner.  And Anna’s PMI payment will be even lower if her credit score is in the 700’s.  From a mortgage insurance perspective, the conventional loan seems like a much better deal.

The author praises the use of FHA mortgages, then later makes the following statements about private mortgage insurance:

  • PMI should be avoided as it will usually cost the homeowner between 0.5% to 1% of the full mortgage amount….”
  • “…it is not great that so many are also paying for PMI as a result of less-than-optimal down payments…”

Such blanket negative statements about PMI concern me.  In our example, and many examples where the borrower has a strong credit score and can make a 10% or more down payment, the numbers often favor conventional loans.  FHA loans are often better when the borrower’s credit score is low or the borrower can only make a down payment of 10% or less.

The key lesson here is to consult a professional mortgage lender (I suggest that this guy for Georgia home buyers) to run the numbers for both FHA and conventional loans.  Then choose the best option given your circumstances.

Which Type of Mortgage To Use – Scenario 2

August 23, 2019

Now let’s change our buyer scenario. Both Jack and Diane want to make offers on a home, but this time they have 10% to put down. (Curious about a smaller down payment?  Take a look at the prior scenario with a 3.5% down payment.)  They still have the same qualifying credit scores of 680 for Jack and 795 for Diane.

With Jack’s 680 credit score, his monthly payment for a conventional loan (principal, interest, and mortgage insurance “MI”) would be $1,514.30. For a FHA loan, his payment would be $1,452.29. Given Jack’s credit score – even with the 10% down payment – FHA still delivers a better price, even though FHA loans have the draw backs of the up-front MI and the permanent monthly MI (assuming Congress does not change the law).

In this scenario with Jack’s 10% down payment, the mortgage insurance falls off after 11 years (even if Congress doesn’t act). Meaning, the FHA loan becomes even more attractive now and into the future.

With Diane’s 795 credit score, her monthly payment for a conventional loan would only be $1,391.24. Her FHA loan payment would be $1,452.29. (Note that it is the same as Jack’s payment, even though Diane’s credit score is over 100 points better.) In this case, Diane can now save money by using the conventional loan. The conventional loan has the best pricing from the beginning, and it provides the PMI cancellation benefits mentioned in the previous post.

With this example, one can definitely see how FHA loans do not have the same impact when it comes to the interest rate, mortgage insurance, and monthly payment versus conventional loans. Even with such a large gap between the credit scores (680 versus 795), the payment on the FHA loan is the same.

Ultimately, every client situation is unique. For some borrower circumstances (e.g., self-employed, buying a condo, high debt to income ratio, etc.), we may recommend one loan option because the buyer has a better chance to win approval, even if the payment winds up being slightly higher.

Do you know someone planning to buy a home in Georgia?  If they have questions, connect them with me.  I love helping people understand their mortgage options and helping them determine the best approach to financing a home purchase.

Which Type of Mortgage To Use – Scenario 1

August 13, 2019

Now that everyone understands the basics of FHA and conventional loans, let’s do a buyer comparison. Both Jack and Diane want to purchase a $300,000 home. They both have $11,000 (3.7%) for the down payment and qualifying credit scores of 680 for Jack and 795 for Diane.

With Jack’s 680 credit score, his monthly payment for a conventional loan (principal, interest, and mortgage insurance “MI”) would be $1,820.82.  For a FHA loan, his payment would be $1,563.19. There’s no comparison. For Jack, the better deal is the FHA mortgage, even though it has the draw backs of the up-front mortgage insurance and the permanent monthly mortgage insurance payment.

With Diane’s 795 credit score, her monthly payment for a conventional loan would only be $1,582.61. Her FHA loan payment would be $1,542.47.  In this case, Diane is also better off, at least initially, with the FHA loan. One thing to keep in mind is the MI premium. If Diane chooses the FHA loan, that premium is permanent (assuming Congress does not change the law). If she chooses the conventional loan, the insurance will eventually be cancelled, dropping her payment to $1,442. The key question for Diane is, “How long will you stay in the home?” If less than 5 years, Diane’s best bet is the FHA loan. If longer than 5 years, Diane may want to consider the conventional loan.

Notice the FHA payments for these examples. They differ by only about $21 even though the credit scores are drastically different (680 versus 795). This shows why FHA is better for those making a purchase with lower credit scores. The buyer doesn’t see as steep of an increase in their payment.

In the next blog post, we will make the same comparison with a 10% down payment.

Does your friend Scott talk about buying a house?  Does he understand which loan program is best for him?  If not, have Scott contact me. We Dunwoody Mortgage professionals understand the details of these mortgage programs, and we coach our buyers to make the best decision given their circumstances.  Often, with a slight change to their home purchase situation (change of down payment, paying down a credit card balance, etc.), we can help our clients save money with a better interest rate or a lower mortgage insurance cost.  Home buyers should consider all options before buying, and Dunwoody Mortgage offers the service and knowledge to help home buyers make the best decision possible.

Types of Mortgages – Conventional

July 30, 2019

Now let’s take a look at conventional mortgage details.  (Click here to review FHA loan details.  And here is a link to the Home Ready program changes.)

In general, conventional loans are less forgiving of credit issues than are FHA loans.  Conventional loans require longer wait times after derogatory credit events like foreclosure or bankruptcy.  And the borrower’s credit score has a much greater impact on conventional loan pricing versus FHA loans.  The lower one’s credit score, the higher the interest rate.  In some cases, a credit score 100 points lower could cause the borrower’s interest rate to increase by almost one percentage point.

Ultimately, this makes conventional mortgages less attractive to borrowers with lower credit scores and more attractive to those with higher credit scores.

Conventional loans do not require up-front mortgage insurance, but private mortgage insurance (“PMI”) is required for down payments less than 20%.  PMI rates vary based on the borrower’s credit score and down payment.  For the same loan amount, the monthly PMI will be dramatically different for a 690 credit score borrower making a 5% down payment vs. a 780 credit score borrower making a 15% down payment.  PMI is not permanent.  It automatically terminates when the borrower’s loan balance reaches 78% of the original contract price or appraised value (whichever is lower).  And, in certain circumstances, the borrower can request PMI cancellation prior to reaching the 78% threshold.

Borrowers can obtain a conventional loan with a minimum 3% down payment.  This often only makes sense when the borrower’s credit score is 720 or higher.  With a lower score, the PMI cost for a 3% down loan can get pretty expensive.  We often recommend that conventional buyers make a 5% or more down payment to keep PMI costs lower.

Another advantage of conventional loans is the maximum loan amount.  While FHA caps out at a purchase price of around $390,000 using the minimum down payment, conventional loans can go higher.  How much higher?  How about a $500,000 purchase price with a 3% down payment.  That is about 25% higher than the FHA maximum.

In the next posts, we will compare some hypothetical home buyer scenarios to determine which loan is best – conventional or FHA.  Do you know someone who wants to buy a Georgia home?  Please refer them to me.   We Dunwoody Mortgage professionals ask important questions to determine if we can help our clients make slight changes (down payment amount, paying down a credit card balance, etc.) that help them save money with a better interest rate and / or lower PMI premium.  We work hard to deliver excellent service and pricing to our customers, and our consistently positive reviews show our clients are pleased with our work.

 

Types of Mortgages – FHA

July 23, 2019

Given recent mortgage program changes, now is a good time to review the pros and cons of the major loan programs and when borrower circumstances favor one specific loan program.  In the last few years, many of our clients have used the conventional Home Ready program.   Without Home Ready, many of these buyers would have used FHA loans.  Given the Home Ready changes, we expect more future buyers to use FHA loans.

So let’s talk about FHA loans!

  • In the metro-Atlanta area, buyers can purchase homes up to about $390,000 using a minimum down payment (3.5%) FHA loan.  That is a lot of home!
  • Relative to conventional mortgages, FHA loans are generally more forgiving of credit “issues.”  This means lower credit score borrowers will most likely get a better FHA interest rate versus a conventional loan.
  • FHA allows for lower credit scores and shorter wait times following derogatory credit events, such as foreclosure or bankruptcy.  Borrowers typically need a 620 score to qualify.  Depending on other borrower details, Dunwoody Mortgage may be able to close loans where the borrower’s credit score is as low as 580.

Both FHA and conventional loans require monthly mortgage insurance “MI” for down payments less than 20%.  For FHA, the monthly premium is a flat 0.85% of the loan amount.  Conventional loans determine the premium based on the borrower’s credit score and down payment.  FHA loans also have an up-front mortgage insurance premium.  FHA monthly MI is permanent if the down payment is less than 10%.  Note that Congress is now considering a bill to automatically cancel FHA MI similar to how conventional loans cancel the insurance.  More to come on this story.

In the next post, we will review conventional loan details.  For now, if you know someone looking to buy a Georgia home, please refer them to me.  We Dunwoody Mortgage professionals understand the key loan program details and we coach our buyers to make the best decision given their circumstances.  We can help our clients find ways to lower interest and mortgage insurance costs.  We have a strong record full of very positive customer reviews.


Should I Refinance Now?

June 20, 2019

As recently reported in The Mortgage Blog, mortgage interest rates have dropped to their lowest level in over two years.  The last time rates were consistently this low was just before the 2016 Presidential election.  For people who purchased homes since then, it may make sense to refinance now.  So how do you decide if a refinance is right for you?

I read one article from a major think tank stating you should refinance for a rate that is a specific amount lower than your current rate.  I believe that is a bit simplistic and you should crunch numbers in more detail.  I recommend comparing the financial benefits against the cost of refinancing – the total amount you can save each month versus the refinance cost.

With a rate / term refi, you will save by lowering your monthly interest payments and, possibly, by lowering or eliminating private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments.  I recommend you focus on the dollar savings.  A 0.5% interest rate change on a $100,000 loan will save you much less per month than the same interest rate change on a $400,000 mortgage.  Eliminating or reducing PMI payments can provide significantly lower monthly payments.  To eliminate PMI, you must must have 20% equity.  Perhaps your home’s value has increased since you bought it.  You can capture this higher value as equity in the new loan using a new appraisal value.  If the appraisal shows you have greater equity, even if it’s less than 20%, you may see your PMI payment reduced, perhaps substantially.

How do I analyze the savings?  I estimate a new monthly payment based on the lower interest rate and potential PMI changes and compare this rate versus their current payment.  Then I divide the refi closing cost by the monthly savings to get a “break even” point.  If the monthly savings break even on the closing costs in three years or less, I typically recommend that the client pursue the refinance.  Why three years?  It seems most people have a general idea of their plans for the next three years or so.  Anything further than that becomes a little murkier.  I’m currently working with a client who has a $335,000 loan.  I estimate a refinance will save her $150 per month and will “break even” in about 22 months.  That seems like a wise financial move to me.

 

Another option to consider is a cash out refinance.  Is there a home project you want to do?  Perhaps a kitchen or bathroom renovation?  I have clients using their home equity and lower interest rates to take cash out for a project, and still have the same payment (or even a better payment) than they have now.

Do you know someone who bought a Georgia home in 2017 or 2018?  Ask them what they would do with an extra $100 per month.  Then refer them to me.  I’ll run the numbers to determine whether refinancing is a wise move.