Archive for the ‘Interest Rates’ Category

When volatility became normal

April 11, 2018


Welcome to 2018. The year where daily 400 point swings on the Dow became normal. In the words of Théoden, King of Rohan, “How did it come to this?”

 

There are a few economic events playing into the recent volatility seen on Wall Street. In no particular order:

  1. Stocks are a little more nervous about inflation.
  2. Stocks are unsettled from rumors of trade wars coming with countries imposing tariffs on one another.
  3. Stocks seemingly rebound after big drops because the numbers on the economy itself are still sound.
  4. The Republican tax plan may also be encouraging businesses to spend.
  5. Businesses are expecting more overall to some of the regulations imposed on them.

Those are some good reasons for stocks to be bouncing back and forth – sometimes literally daily swings in the 100s of points.

This being a mortgage blog, our readers want to know how the volatility impacts mortgage rates. Normally, when stocks have a rough day and lose hundreds of points, mortgage rates improve. How have mortgage rates responded over the past 6 weeks?… they’ve been flat.

Mortgage rates haven’t really improved on days stocks tumble, or got worse on days stocks have rebounded. This is a sure sign the market is expecting volatility and not overreacting to a single day. Will this continue? If stocks drop below 20,000, I would expect mortgage rates to improve (and vice versa should stocks get better). For now, rates have held firm and not overreacted to the craziness on Wall Street. The only damage to mortgage rates to this point has been the half point rise to start the year.

Out looking to purchase a home in the spring market? Needing to get prequalified? Contact me today! If in the state of Georgia, we can have you ready to purchase a home in no time!

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How Government Policy Impacts Mortgage Rates

February 20, 2018

Mortgage interest rates continue rising.  Other recent blog posts have covered the impacts of inflation, the Federal Funds rate, and stock market influences on mortgage rates.  Another major influence on mortgage rates is government policy. 

In 2008, the Federal Reserve implemented a program called “quantitative easing” (QE).  The Fed created money to buy securities like mortgage backed securities and public bonds from banks.  This new money increased bank reserves.  The idea is that the new cash would motivate banks to lend more money.  In buying new assets, stock prices would rise, and interest rates would fall, thus boosting investment further.  Given the trillions of dollars of assets purchased, it’s logical to assume that interest rates on all types of debt are lower than they would have been without QE.

The Fed ceased QE security purchases in October 2014.  A government policy used to keep rates low ended, and experts wondered if mortgage rates would increase.  But rates stayed near their historic lows until November 2016.  Rates rose quickly after the election by almost a full percentage point, and then slowly retreated over most of 2017.

In October 2017, the Fed began “normalizing its balance sheet” by selling its securities holdings – selling the bonds purchased in QE.  Experts predicted this policy would have the reverse effect of QE:

·       Bond price decreases due to increased supply (as the Fed sells its holdings).

·       Falling bond prices lead to increases in bond yields, which translates to rising interest rates.

And that appears to be happening.  From a lender’s perspective – QE was great.  I loved quoting interest rates less than 4%.  And now it’s frustrating and stressful to see interest rates rising and continuing higher.  But it makes sense given the broader economic and government policy environment.

It is impossible to accurately predict where mortgage rates will go.  Sudden changes in government policy, international relations, etc. can cause mortgage rates to change direction.  Given that caveat, it appears likely that mortgage rates have truly left the historic low levels of the last few years and will likely not return there anytime soon.  I think it is logical to expect rates to continue rising for the short term.

So, if you know someone in Georgia who is considering a home purchase, it may be a good financial move to pull the trigger before rates go much higher.  Refer that someone to me and we can explore their loan options together.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage offer competitive rates in this changing environment, and as a small company, we can go directly to our executives to work out the best pricing “deal” possible.  In addition to competitive rates, we consistently deliver outstanding service to get home buyers to closing on time.

Any hope for mortgage rates?

February 15, 2018

As my colleague recently posted, mortgage rates are off to a rough start this year. As of this post, mortgage rates are a half point higher for the year. I won’t dig into the details of why this is happening. Rodney did a great job of it in his recent post. Today, I’ll focus on what can turn the tide for mortgage rates.

Stocks have suffered a rough start to the new year too. That is normally great news for mortgage rates. Normally as stock prices fall, bond values rise, and mortgage rates improve. The Dow fell over 2,000 points at one moment over the past few weeks, and yet mortgage rates also got worse. If a 2,000 point drop couldn’t help mortgage rates, what can?!?

We must look back at one of the root causes Rodney discussed – inflation. Mortgage rates hate inflation as it eats away at the value of mortgage backed security bonds. As those bond prices fall, mortgage rates rise. The way to help mortgage rates is to combat inflation. The best weapon we have at our disposal is the Federal Funds Rate… the Federal Reserve can continue increasing the Federal Funds Rate. In fact, every time they’ve done that over the past couple of years, mortgage rates have initially improved. Why? The higher the Federal Funds Rate goes, the more it can combat inflation.

Of course, the flip side is raising it too much can cool off the economy (don’t want that). Also, with the new budget deal passed last week by the government, more bonds will be sold to fund the increases to our national budget. More bonds available for sale also lower bond values, pushing mortgage rates higher. As I said in a post late last year, the environment for mortgage rates to get worse is here. That seems to be occurring. While mortgage rates are still low, the time of super low rates could finally be behind us.

The Federal Reserve could increase the Federal Funds Rate to fight inflation and help mortgage rates, but given the other factors at play, the increase to the funds rate may not help improve rates over the long haul for the time being.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about purchasing a home over the past year because “rates are so low, why hurry,” the time may be now. If you are purchasing in the state of Georgia, contact me. We can get the prequalification process completed in minutes and have you ready to go out and find your new home!

Recent Mortgage Rate Changes

February 13, 2018

Wow!  Our economic world has gone crazy in recent weeks.  The Dow Jones average has dropped about 7.9% since its high on January 26, less than 3 weeks ago.

Mortgage interest rates have been changing dramatically too.  Rates have increased a half point (0.5%) since January 2.  Back in mid-December, I quoted an interest rate to a first-time home buyer named John.  Today, in mid-February, I would likely have to charge him 0.625% more than what I quoted in December.

So, what is driving the rapid mortgage rate changes?  In short, Wall Street, economic factors, and government policy.

To understand the basics, first realize that the vast majority of conventional mortgages are sold by lenders to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Fannie and Freddie then package these mortgages into mortgage backed securities (MBS).  Money managers, pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, etc. buy the MBS to keep in their investment portfolios.  They buy and they sell them like other investments. 

That means that the same economic factors that influence stock and bond prices – economic productivity, unemployment, inflation, and government policy – all impact mortgage interest rates.  And MBS must compete with other investment vehicles such as stocks and bonds to attract investors.

Many experts consider the market for 10 Year Treasuries as a benchmark or comparison for MBS.  Both investments offer stable, predictable cash flows.  Since January 2, 2018, the 10 Year Treasury rate has increased almost 0.4%.  Looks like interest rates on these competing investment vehicles are rising at the same time.

Given recent positive unemployment figures and wage growth, inflation concerns are increasing.  Higher inflation expectations tend to drive higher interest rates on Treasuries, bonds, and MBS.  Let’s face it, if investors expect inflation to be 3%, they will want to earn more than 3% on their fixed-income investments, right.  So as inflation concerns rise, it is logical to expect mortgage interest rates to rise accordingly.

When it comes to mortgage interest rates, there’s much more to consider, and we will delve into more details in future posts.  For now, if you know someone in Georgia who is considering a home purchase, please have them contact me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage offer competitive rates in this changing environment, along with outstanding service to get home buyers to closing on time.

Republican tax plan and mortgage rates

December 12, 2017

All signs are pointing to the Republican party passing tax reform. The Republicans are using the “budge reconciliation” process to get the bill passed. By going this route, the Republicans avoid the need for 60 votes for approval in the Senate while preventing the Democrats the ability to use  a filibuster. Whether you opposed tax reform OR couldn’t wait until it arrived, tax reform seems likely to be here once the House and Senate finish reconciling their two tax reform bills.

What does this mean for mortgage rates?

Initially, nothing. On the surface, tax reform has no direct impact on mortgage rates. This is just like when the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funds Rate. The Funds rate impacts second mortgages, car loans, credit card rates, etc., and not mortgage rates. But…. the impact these have on the market can impact mortgage rates.

Stocks have been on a major rally for roughly two years now. The DOW continues to set record highs. Why the surge? Wall Street has bet on tax reform that would benefit business. Trump’s election prompted a big rally back in November 2016, and this rally continued throughout 2017.

Now that tax reform is here, stocks seem poised to continue their good run and maybe continue to push higher. As stock values rise, bond prices normally fall due to the fact that people are putting more money into stocks than bonds. As bond values fall (specifically mortgage backed security bonds), mortgage rates go up. While tax reform doesn’t directly affect mortgages rates, the impact on stocks can influence mortgage rates.

Frequent readers of this blog are aware of how stock prices/mortgage backed security bond prices impact mortgage rates. If you are new to this blog, use this link to read past posts about the subject. 

Currently mortgage rates are definitely off of their yearly lows and moving back toward their yearly highs of 2017. Combine tax reform, continued stock market rally, and the Federal Reserve no longer purchasing bonds from quantitative easing (they are beginning to sell their bonds now), and you have an environment where mortgage rates could go noticeably higher.

Market analysts have said for years now (since 2010) that “this is the year mortgage rates go up,” and rates haven’t gone up. When do I think rates will go up? At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it. That said, the environment for mortgage rates to increase is as real as it has ever been in the past several years.

Considering refinancing or buying a home, but been pushing it off since rates are so low? Maybe now is the time to at least have a conversation about your plans, timing, and how to proceed? If the home loan will be in the state of Georgia, I can help! Contact me today and we’ll get started!

Mortgage Rates and the Second Part of the Fed’s Announcement

June 23, 2017

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

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.

Geographic Income Limits for Home Ready Program

May 1, 2017


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

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

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!