Archive for the ‘Home Ownership’ Category

Education is the key to home ownership

July 10, 2018

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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Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 4

May 30, 2018


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

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.

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 2

April 11, 2018

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.

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 1

March 28, 2018

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.

PIWs are back!

October 10, 2017

Every few months, there are changes made to loan guidelines. Often, the changes are minute and not worth talking about very much. This time, there is something worth discussing.

Property Inspection Waivers (PIW) are back! Technically, they’ve been back for a while, but it was rare to use them. But what are PIWs? Property Inspection Waivers mean a borrower does not need to order an appraisal for the loan if they are satisfied with the value Automated Underwriting (AUS) assigns it. These have been available, but really only used with making a significant down payment (or having lots of equity if the loan is a refinance). How much is significant? Lets say 40% or more in equity.

With this latest change, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac are saying it will be more widely used and available for clients with smaller down payments/amount in equity – even for purchase transactions.

Currently, I am working with clients on a refinance with just 20% equity and no appraisal needed. How is this of benefit to the borrower? For one, it saves money. Appraisal costs range from $450-$500, and the PIW fee is only $75. It also creates a much quicker turn time for closing. Imagine closing start to finish in under two weeks.

Lenders will not know if a loan will qualify until it gets into Automated Underwriting. That means the borrower will have to apply and be under contract on a home with the final purchase price. That said, it is always great to have the opportunity to save money and close faster! We’ll see how well this rolls out, but it’s good to have PIWs back as an option.

Helping People Qualify to Buy a House – Coborrowers

September 25, 2017

Another way for people to qualify to buy a home is finding a co-borrower on the loan.  In most circumstances, a parent is used as a non-occupant co-borrower.  They can help qualify and sign for the loan without living in the subject property.  Don’t have a parent that can assist? Today’s guidelines state that if the non-occupant borrower is not a family member, there must be an established relationship and motivation not including equity participation for profit. In other words, it is much easier when it is a family member involved, but not out of the realm of possibility if it is a non-family member.

That said, this technique can pose some challenges for the generous non-occupant co-borrower. So, when is it used and what are the drawbacks?

Non-occupant co-borrwers are often used when our buyer’s debt to income ratio is too high to qualify for the loan on their own.  Whether it’s because of student loans, needing to buy a new home before selling the current home, auto loans, etc., the situation is that the buyer’s debts make up a higher proportion of her income than permitted in underwriting guidelines. It is rarely used when assets are needed as these can be gifted to the borrower MUCH easier than adding someone as a non-occupant co-borrower.

A few years ago, Paul (not his real name) called me.  He wanted to buy the perfect new home, but he had to make an offer without a contingency to sell his current home.  So we had to underwrite him with two mortgages.  He could not qualify for both loans on his salary.  His mother, Beth (not her real name), agreed to sign on the loan with him.  So we completed loan applications for both Paul and Beth, merged the files, and submitted the joint file for underwriting review.  Beth had a great income and little debt, so the two of them together easily won loan approval.

One year later, Beth decided she wanted to buy her own home.  Now the challenge for her – Paul’s home loan showed in her credit report and had to be included in her debt to income calculation.  Now Beth was the one who could not qualify for two mortgage payments.  And this is the “drawback.”  Those who cosign are legally obligated to pay the loan on behalf of the child-the loan belongs to them both!  So cosigning affects the everyone’s credit and may impact their ability to qualify for future loans.

By the time Beth decided to buy, Paul had sold his original house, so he could qualify for a new mortgage by himself.  Therefore, we refinanced his mortgage in his name only, freed Beth from the original loan, and then won loan approval for Beth’s home purchase.

Bottom line, being a non-occupant co-borrwer can help someone buying a home with debt to income limitations, but this solution can eventually impact the cosigner’s financial goals.  It’s an option to be considered carefully.

Do you know a parent who wants to help their adult child escape the landlord and start building home equity?  Refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage and we will review all options.  We’ll cover the pros and cons of each option, and let that parent choose the best way to help the child.

 

Beyond the Down Payment…Cash to Close

August 30, 2017

In the last post, we debunked the myth that home buyers must make a 20% down payment to buy their home.  There are many programs enabling buyers to close with 5%, 3.5%, or even 3% down payments.  But there is one other factor to consider regarding the cash you have available to buy a home…your “cash to close.”

Cash to close includes your down payment, PLUS the closing costs and prepaid escrow.  In short, you need more cash than just the down payment to close the purchase.  Here is a quick description of the other items:

  • Closing costs are the actual costs of transferring title and obtaining a mortgage loan.  Closing costs include items such as appraisal fees, transfer taxes, intangible tax, attorney fees, title insurance, etc.  Some of these costs are fixed while others increase with the home purchase price or loan amount.
  • Prepaid escrow represents the cash needed to pay the first year of homeowners insurance and to prefund your escrow account to pay future property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums.  These typically increase as the home price increases.

So what options does a buyer have when he has scraped together that 3.5% down payment, but does not have enough cash to cover the remaining cash to close?  Here’s where a proactive lender, working as a consultant to help the buyer, can make a huge difference.  Typically, the buyer has 4 options, and the lender should explore them all with the buyer:

  1. The seller can agree to contribute cash towards the closing as part of the purchase contract.  There are limits regarding how much the seller can contribute based on the loan type and down payment percentage, but a seller contribution can be a huge help.  Note that the seller contribution cannot be applied to the down payment.
  2. The buyer can choose a “no closing cost” loan.  Many buyers choose not to use this option because it involves a higher interest rate and monthly payment, but it can be a good option for some buyers who have limited available cash.
  3. The buyer can receive a gift from a relative.  We must carefully document the gift, but this is a great way for parents and grandparents to help a young adult get started building equity.  The gift can be applied to the down payment.
  4. We can combine the 3 options above to resolve a cash shortfall.

The key here is to remember (1) more cash than just the down payment is needed to close a mortgage and (2) there are creative ways we can solve a cash shortfall.

If you know a renter with a good job but not much cash, refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage Services.  We will work closely with your referral and his / her Realtor to structure a mortgage that best meets their financial situation.

The Truth About Down Payments…

August 25, 2017

Many young adults and other potential home buyers mistakenly assume that they cannot buy a house.  Why?  Because they believe the myth that a home buyer must make a 20% down payment to buy a home.  A recent study by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) shows that the average down payment for 60% of first time buyers is 6% or less.  However, their research indicates that just 13% of adults age 34 and younger understand that they can buy a home with as little as 5% down, or less.  Their analysis shows that, over the last 5 years, more than 70% of non-cash, first time buyers, along with 54% of all home buyers, made down payments of less than 20%.

So why do so many Americans not understand this home buying truth?  Perhaps it is because 20% is the down payment benchmark most often quoted by “experts” in print and other news media.  And perhaps it is because that to avoid mortgage insurance on a conventional loan, you must make at least a 20% down payment.

Whatever the reason, it is time for us to spread the truth about down payments.  That truth is, the majority of home buyers make down payments of less than 20%.  Here are some quick options for folks who want to buy, but don’t have a lot of cash saved for a purchase:

  • Active duty military, National Guard, Reserves, or military veterans may qualify for a 0% down VA loan.
  • FHA loans offer minimum down payments of 3.5% with low interest rates.
  • Buyer who qualify can obtain a Home Ready conventional loan for 3% down, with competitive interest rates and discounted mortgage insurance premiums.
  • Buyers who do not qualify for Home Ready may still qualify for a 3% down payment, but possibly with a higher interest rate.  In this case, the buyer will likely receive a lower interest rate if she makes a 5% down payment.

Bottom line, many home buying options exist for folks who can afford less than a 20% down payment.  These home buyers need a mortgage expert to coach them to the best option for their financial situation.  That is the type of individualized service we deliver at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We work closely with our clients to help them obtain the mortgage solution that best meets their needs.

If you know a young adult in Georgia who has a good job, who is renting and doesn’t think she can buy her own home, suggest that she call me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  She just might be able to fire her landlord, buy her own place, and start building equity.  Don’t let her believe the down payment myths.

 

Homebuyers squeezed out of the market

June 13, 2017

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!