Posts Tagged ‘atlanta mortgage advice’

Feds raising rates again?

June 12, 2018

This week the Federal Reserve meets again with the prospects of another hike in the Federal Funds Rate. While there seems to be positive sentiment for an increase, the excitement for an increase is lower than it was a few weeks ago. There are concerns in the markets with events overseas, increased prices in oil, and a sluggish first quarter of economic growth in the US.

If the Fed raises rates, it would be the seventh increase within the past 30 months. That said, rates would still be well below where they were at the start of the recession. Whether they raise rates or not, analysts will be watching carefully for the Fed’s statement which will be released on Wednesday along with the rate decision. This statement may give us a clue of what the Fed is thinking about rate increases for the rest of the year and perhaps even into next year. A major question to answer will be at what level will they consider rates “normalized.”

In terms of mortgage rates, the last several times the Feds have raised the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates have either improved or at least stayed the same. Why? The higher the Federal Funds Rate, the more inflation is kept in check. Since mortgage rates hate inflation, this can help push mortgage rates down. Considering mortgage rates have increased by 0.750% this year, any relief would be welcomed. So don’t worry about hearing the Feds are raising rates because that may actually help mortgage rates improve.

Looking to get prequalified to buy a home in Georgia? Contact me today today and I can help you toward owing 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.

Changes to loan guidelines

May 15, 2018

Guidelines for getting approval on a home loan can seem like a moving target – they always seem to be changing. While that isn’t true, technically, what is true is this… there are so many guidelines in terms of a buyer’s qualifications (assets, credit, income, etc.) that small changes do tend to happen often. Here are some changes that we may have missed.

IRS Tax Payment plans – this one can be handy when looking to buy a home BUT a larger-than-expected tax bill comes due. As long as there is not a federal tax lien filed, the borrower can move forward with the home purchase using an accepted IRS tax payment plan. The borrower would provide the monthly tax payment, proof of IRS tax payment plan acceptance, and the reminder payment coupon for the second payment. Only one payment needs to be made. In regards to qualifying, the monthly payment is calculated as if it were any other debt such as a monthly car payment, student loan payment, etc.

Sourcing funds – all of those cash or check deposits made into a bank account… during the crash, it seemed we would need to document any deposit that was over $100. It was a nightmare. Fortunately, it has relaxed now. The guideline is any deposit that is less than half of monthly income can be ignored. This means the number of deposits that need to be documented dramatically decreased. One caveat to this is the number of deposits. If no individual deposit is over half of monthly income, but there are multiple deposits adding up to over half of the monthly income, and underwriter can request all of the deposits be documented to ensure no one gave our home buyer extra money as an incentive to purchase the home. While this caveat can be used by an underwriter, it is rare.

Liquidating retirement funds – in some cases (depending on the amount being liquidating and/or loan program), we no longer need to document the liquidation of retirement assets for funds to close. We just need to show the money exists and is accessible to our borrower.

IRS Tax Transcripts – we’ll begin and end with the IRS… IRS tax transcripts are no longer required in a majority of loan situations now. There are some programs that still require it, but tax transcripts are no longer ordered for every single loan. This helps speed up the process of buying a home. Over the past few years during the IRS busy season (think April 15th and Oct 15th), getting copies of transcripts could be delayed. That, in turn, could cause delays for getting loan approval.

In all of these examples, the requirements for loan approval has lightened up some from the housing crash, which is especially helpful during the home buying process.

Wanting to buy a home this year? Looking in the state of Georgia? If so, contact me! I can get you prequalified and well on your way to owning your new home.

 

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.

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.

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.

Tools to Access Your Home’s Equity

January 11, 2018

Home owners often seek to use their home equity as a source of cash.  They can use this cash for renovations, paying off other high interest debt, funding college educations, etc.

Owners typically access their equity by either (1) paying off their current mortgage and obtaining a new, higher-balance mortgage using a “cash out” refinance or (2) obtaining a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  Each option has some pros and cons.  The new federal tax law somewhat changes the pro / con dynamic.

Under the 2017 tax law, mortgage interest paid on loan balances up to $750,000 remains deductible on your federal taxes.  However, the tax law eliminated the mortgage interest deduction on new home equity loans and lines of credit.  But note that this only affects home owners who itemize their taxes.  And with the doubling of the standard deduction under the new tax law, the number of households that itemize deductions is expected to drop from 34 million to 14 million.

So, if you are considering accessing your home equity, first think through whether this tax change will affect you.  If you are a single filer and your itemized deductions including mortgage interest would be less than $12,000, the interest deductibility will not affect your decision.  If you file jointly and your itemized deductions would be less than $24,000, interest deductibility will again not affect your decision.

Here is my list of benefits for each option:

Cash Out Refi:

·        You can obtain a fixed rate loan.  The monthly principal and interest payment will never change.  HELOC rates are variable and your payments will increase when market interest rates increase.

·        You can deduct all interest (on loan balances up to $750,000) as part of your federal tax calculations as described above.

·        You reduce your outstanding loan principal with every payment.  The monthly payments reduce your outstanding principal every month.  HELOC payments are interest only.  For people who don’t have the financial discipline to pay down HELOC balances, the cash out refi forces you to reduce the loan balance monthly.

HELOC:

·        You can access more of your home’s equity.  HELOC’s typically allow up to 85% loan balance (first mortgage plus HELOC) to home value or loan to value “LTV.”  Cash out refis only allow a maximum 80% LTV.

·        You pay less for the loan itself.  Closing costs are typically lower for a HELOC than for a mortgage.

·        You can pay less each month.  Required HELOC payments are interest only.  By not paying down part of the principal each month, your monthly payments will likely be lower with a HELOC versus a traditional  mortgage.   

Next post, we will cover some “rules of thumb” when choosing between a refi and a HELOC.  Own a home in Georgia and want to access some equity?  Give me a call at Dunwoody Mortgage and let’s review your options.  We can consider the advantages of each as we guide you to the best solution for your situation.

My (FHA Loan) Christmas Wish List

December 19, 2017

FHA loans are great for certain borrowers.  I look to FHA loans when my clients have credit scores of say 680 or less, little available cash for a down payment, and want a 30 year mortgage.  FHA loans also can help a home buyer who has a higher level of other outstanding debt, as FHA guidelines allow slightly higher debt to income ratios.

FHA loans typically offer lower interest rates than conventional loans, but they do have some limitations.  But now there is some movement in Washington to change some of these limitations.  Let’s pretend that the federal government is Santa Claus.  Here’s my FHA mortgage wish list:

  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif has introduced the Making FHA More Affordable Act.  This bill would repeal the “life of the loan requirement” for FHA mortgage insurance.  Right now, if a borrower closes an FHA loan with a less than 10% down payment, the mortgage insurance is permanent – it never goes away.  In contrast, the mortgage insurance is cancelled automatically on a conventional (non-FHA) mortgage when the outstanding principal balance reaches 78% of the home’s original value.  In my opinion, this would be a good change for consumers who need FHA financing.  I don’t think they should have to pay the mortgage insurance after they have 22% equity in their home.
  • Under Ben Carson, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a report signaling an easing in FHA requirements for condominiums.  Currently, to close a FHA loan on a condo, the condo complex must be on the FHA approved list.  Condos apply for FHA approval based on a number of FHA-specified criteria.  If the complex is not on the FHA approved list, a buyer cannot obtain a FHA loan and must obtain conventional financing.  The National Association of Realtors reported that of the 614,000 condo sales in 2016, only 4% were closed with FHA financing. 
  • In addition to loosening FHA condo complex approval guidelines, the administration is also indicating that it wants to revive FHA’s “spot loan” program.  This program allows homebuyers to purchase a  condo in a complex that has not been approved for FHA financing.  Some estimates have claimed that without the spot loan program, 90% of condo projects cannot have buyers with FHA mortgages. 

We mortgage lenders must work within the rules defined by the regulators – we don’t make the decisions.  But I think the above changes would be very positive, as they would make home and condo ownership less expensive and more realistic for buyers who need the FHA loan program. 

If you know a potential home buyer in Georgia who wants to know if they are on Santa’s, sorry, FHA’s, “good list,” have them contact me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We will work within FHA guidelines (and explore other potential loan options) to make sure they get the best deal on their mortgage, and hopefully enjoy some FHA guideline “gifts” from Washington soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

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!