Posts Tagged ‘first time home buyer’

Homebuyer Economic Analysis

February 20, 2019

Recent economic reports show interesting data and forecasts regarding home buyers.  A survey of 100 economists by Zillow and Pulsenomics, LLC reported that almost 60% believe that home values are more sensitive to changing interest rates than in prior years.  One economist noted that if mortgage rates rise to 5.5%, a home buyer would need a $35,000 lower home price to keep the same monthly payment.  Buyers on tight budgets would have a more limited available home inventory, and others might stretch their budgets rather than lowering their target price.

Even with interest rate uncertainty, a majority of economists surveyed expect increasing first-time buyer activity this year.  These economists forecast that the homeownership rate will climb above its historical average over the next five years.

What is the difference between first-time buyers who actually buy versus those who want to buy, but don’t?  The answer is about $30,000 of annual income.  A recent study by RealEstate.com showed that the first-time home buyers have a $72,500 median income.  Their income is significantly higher than those people who want to buy their first home but do not actually buy.  The latter group earns a $42,500 median income.


This higher income helps buyers in two ways.  Firstly, they can afford larger monthly payments based on underwriting debt to income guidelines.  Secondly, the higher incomes allow these buyers to save more money which they use for down payments and closing costs.  A recent Zillow study reports that first-time buyers make a median 14.5% down payment.

Ultimately, financing a home purchase is challenging for many buyers.  These buyers need a mortgage professional to structure the best loan possible.  The loan structure will determine the interest rate, mortgage insurance, and the amount of home the buyer can purchase.  And special programs exist that offer discounted interest rates with a minimum 3% down payment for home buyers who qualify.  Getting into the best loan program, a slight down payment change, or paying off another debt at closing can help the home buyer save thousands over the loan’s lifetime.  That is a key reason why selecting the right mortgage professional is so important. 

Do you have a friend or relative who wants to buy a home in Georgia?  Refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  I will help them structure the best loan for their financial situation.


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Help With Down Payments

January 23, 2019


Restating the main theme from the prior post, people who want to buy homes do not need “great” credit scores or large down payments.  Home buyers can obtain mortgages with as little as 3.0% down.  What about those people who have not saved enough for the low down payment plus closing costs plus prepaid escrow?  Do they have any options to help cover their required cash to close?  The answer is, “YES!” Here are some options for cash-strapped buyers:

  • Request that the seller contribute cash at closing to help cover the closing costs and prepaid escrow.  Mortgage guidelines allow the seller to contribute specific percentages of the home sale price to cover transaction costs and escrow, but not the down payment.  If the buyer’s agent can negotiate that the seller helps cover these items, then it can be done within the guidelines.  The greater the down payment, the more the seller can contribute.
  • Borrow from an employer-sponsored retirement account.  In many cases, home buyers with 401K or other retirement accounts may be able to borrow against the account balance to help purchase a home.  These are loans – the home buyer signs paperwork agreeing to repay the retirement account.  Different retirement plan managers have different rules, so home buyers should check with their HR departments and retirement plan managers to determine their eligibility.  Buyers can use retirement funds to cover down payment, escrow and loan costs.

  • Obtain a cash gift from a blood relative.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other blood relatives are allowed to give cash to help home buyers.  “Give” is the key word because all parties must sign documents stating the funds are a gift and not a loan, so no repayment is expected.  A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that now more first time buyers obtain relative gifts to help buy their homes.  Buyers can use gift funds to cover down payment, escrow and loan costs.
  • Government down payment assistance programs.  These programs are available from many state, county, and city governments.  They often require home ownership education classes and other commitments from home buyers.  These assistance programs may have income requirements.

The good news here is that cash-strapped home buyers can obtain low down payment loans and many can use one of these options to help close their loan.  Do you know someone who wants to buy a Georgia home but has limited cash?  Connect them with me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will help them explore all available options to buy a home sooner rather than later.


Low Down Payment / Credit Score Mortgage Options

January 16, 2019


Joe Tyrrell, an executive with mortgage software company Ellie Mae, recently stated, “People still have the misunderstanding that they need a FICO score above 720 and more cash for a down payment, so they don’t apply for loans because they assume they’ll be denied.”  These would be borrowers are self-selecting themselves out of the home buying market based on false assumptions.  So let’s clear up some mortgage myths.

Firstly, borrowers do not a need “great” credit score to win mortgage approval.  Conventional loan guidelines allow credit scores down to 620.  FHA loan guidelines allow credit scores down to 580.  And now non-traditional loans exist that can approve borrowers with scores down to 500 and derogatory credit events (e.g., bankruptcy or foreclosure) in the last two years.  Note that the lower one’s credit score, the higher the interest rate the borrower will face.  But FHA interest rates for lower credit score borrowers are not ridiculously high relative to rates for higher credit score home buyers.


Secondly, winning loan approval does not require home buyers to break their proverbial piggy bank and make a large down payment.  Home buyers can obtain FHA loans with a minimum 3.5% down payment, and they can win conventional loan approval with a 3% down payment.  And if the home buyer qualifies, he / she could obtain a low-interest Home Ready or Home Possible loan with a 3% down payment.  Qualifying military veterans can secure 0% down payment VA loans.  Buyers in rural areas can receive 0% down USDA loans in approved counties.

What may confuse potential home buyers about down payments is the fact that conventional loans require a 20% down payment to avoid mortgage insurance.  But as long as the buyer can win loan approval with the added monthly mortgage insurance expense, the buyer can get their mortgage with a down payment of only 3%.  This 20% down payment myth  requirement is widely held.  Even some financial journalists hold this incorrect notion, as shown by this statement in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “While conventional mortgages can require buyers to put down as much as 20% of the purchase price up front, FHA buyers can pay as little as 3.5%.”  Regardless of what some journalists write, I can help home buyers win conventional loan approval with a down payment as low as 3%!!

Home buyers should remember that they will have to pay closing costs and prepaid escrow in addition to the down payment.  So buyers should plan to invest more cash than just the down payment at closing.  But buyers have options to help with their cash to close needs.  We will explore those options in the next post.

For now, do you have a friend or co-worker who wants to buy a house but is concerned about the down payment or credit score requirements?  Connect them with me and I will help them obtain the best mortgage for their financial situation and home needs.

VA Mortgage Volume Grows (Again)

December 28, 2018

For the seventh straight year, the number of homes purchased using VA mortgages has increased.  VA home purchase loan volume has increased dramatically in the last five years – up 59%.  610,000 VA home loans have been closed in the current fiscal year, generating $161 billion in loan volume.  According to Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United, “More Veterans have used this $0 down loan in the last five years than in the prior dozen years combined.”  VA loans now comprise about 10% of the residential mortgage market.

Many experts consider the VA loan to be the “most powerful home loan on the market.”  One key reason – low interest rates.  Industry researchers report that VA loans have consistently had the lowest interest rates for 53 straight months.  A second key reason – veterans can obtain a loan with a zero down payment.  That enables many veterans to buy now instead of waiting several years while saving money for another loan program’s minimum down payment.  A third reason – VA loans require no monthly mortgage insurance payment.  Combining these three factors can make a home purchase much more affordable for American military veterans.

 

 

Given the many VA loan benefits, any veteran considering a home purchase should investigate the VA loan option.  The first question a veteran should ask is, “Do I qualify for a VA loan.”  A prior Mortgage Blog post from 2016 addresses this question in detail.  See the post, VA Loans:  How to Qualify, by Clay Jeffreys.  The key update to this post is that the 2019 VA loan limit will be $484,350, as opposed to the $417,000 amount valid in 2016.  A quick summary is that VA loans are available to the following people:

  • People who were on active duty for 90+ days during wartime.
  • People who were on active duty for 181+ days during peacetime.
  • People who served 6+ years in the National Guard or Reserves.
  • Spouse of a service person who died in combat OR resulting from a service related disability.
  • Some people who have served as public health officers or in the Coast Guard.

To qualify, veterans must submit service related documents to the VA, which then provides a Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”) to the mortgage lender.  For example, active duty personnel submit the military form DD-214 to obtain the COE.  The VA requires different documents for National Guard and Reserves personnel.

Instead of standard monthly mortgage insurance, the VA charges a funding fee, based on the home buyer’s service record and down payment percentage.  The lender simply adds the funding fee to the loan balance.  See the post, VA Loans:  Funding Fee, by Clay Jeffreys for a more detailed funding fee explanation.

Do you know a veteran considering a Georgia home purchase?  We at Dunwoody Mortgage love helping veterans buy homes.  We deliver these great VA loan benefits with the excellence service all Dunwoody Mortgage customers receive.  Tell veterans you know to call me.  We will treat them with the honor, respect, and excellence they deserve.


Generation Z is Preparing to Buy Homes

December 13, 2018

A recent study by realtor.com shows that Generation Z (ages 18 – 24) members show their strong home ownership desire because they prepare financially for a home purchase.  The study reports that Gen Z-ers are twice as likely as the previous generations to be saving or plan to be saving for a home purchase by age 25.   The study also noted that 40% of Gen Z-ers plan to become home owners by age 25.  These young people desire to buy homes at rates similar to Millennials and Gen X-er’s, but Gen Z-er’s have started saving sooner than prior generations.

The study shows that 79 percent are certain that they want to own a home, a level similar to the preceding generations.  Only 4 percent of this young generation say they do not want to buy a home.  The striking difference lies in the fact that, by age twenty-five, 74 percent have either started saving or plan to start saving for a home purchase.  Only 33 percent of the prior generations matched this saving discipline.  Some economists speculate that their graduating into one of the best labor markets in decades has given Gen Z-er’s a savings boost.

Other interesting details reported include:

  • Gen Z shows the least home-buying desire for investment or tax savings purposes (29 percent and 16 percent, respectively).
  • The top two reason for Gen Z home purchases are:
    • Customizing their own living space at 61 percent.
    • Raising a family in a home they own at 55 percent.

Great loan programs exist that can help young home buyers (older buyers, too) buy houses for as little as 3 percent down, and with interest rate and mortgage insurance discounts.  And military veterans can obtain VA loans with no down payment.  So young buyers who have started saving may be able to buy a home sooner than they think.

Do you know a young professional who talks about buying a home – perhaps a coworker or a niece or nephew?  Or has a friend with an adult child mentioned their kid’s home buying plans?  If so, please refer them to me.  If they are ready to buy now, we at Dunwoody Mortgage will get them into a home with a great loan that fits their needs.  If they are not ready to buy right now, we will coach them and help them to best prepare for their home purchase.  We love working with young (and older) home buyers.


Atlanta Home Market Update

September 26, 2018


A new report on the Atlanta housing market shows a significant decline in home sales, year over year, along with a much greater decline in Atlanta home sales as compared to the national housing market.  The number of August Atlanta home sales declined 7.1% from 2017 to 2018.  The national decline in home sales was only 1.1% for the same period.  The data shows varying results for different parts of the metro area:

  • Cobb County sales declined 9%
  • DeKalb County sales declined 8%
  • Clayton sales declined 17%
  • Gwinnett County reported a more than 10% sales decline
  • On the other hand, Fulton County sales increased 14%

Atlanta home prices continue to increase, even while the number of sales decrease.  One example of this is the Old Fourth Ward section of Atlanta.  From 2017 to 2018, the number of home sales declined 19%.  But at the same time, average prices in the Old Fourth Ward have risen by about 35%.

Atlanta’s housing challenge is an inventory shortage, especially at the lower end of the home price spectrum.  ReMax reported that the supply of homes listed for sale in metro Atlanta was down 13% in August as compared to August 2017.  Ultimately, buyers compete against each other for desirable homes and this forces prices up.

From my experience, it seems that homes priced under $300,000 have seen strong competition this year.  One client found a home priced around $260,000 in an attractive Gwinnett neighborhood.  My client’s offer was one of about 20 offers on this one house.  Some Realtor friends have told me about making offers on Atlanta condos where the listing agent received 12 – 15 other offers.

It is very tough for buyers to compete in this market.  I have several clients who have decided to put home ownership on hold until 2019.  It takes patience and persistence to keep going.

For pointers on how a lender can help a buyer compete, see this prior Mortgage Blog post:  https://wp.me/p1Gub-YJ.  Buyers should talk with Realtors about other ways to make their offers more attractive.  Effective ideas include:

  1. If cash is available, the buyer can offer to pay the purchase price regardless of the property’s appraised value.
  2. The buyer must have a flexible schedule to visit homes and make offers right when they hit the market.
  3. The buyer can consider writing a personal note to the seller explaining why the house is perfect.  (I’ve seen this work before.)

Experienced Realtors can offer more effective tips for winning the contract.  If you have a friend or coworker wanting to buy a home in Atlanta, ask if they want their lender to help them beyond financing a house by helping win the contract.  Then refer them to me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will do all in our power to help them win the contract and close on the purchase, and we will do it quickly too.


How the Lender Can Help Win the Contract

August 14, 2018


The last post covered reasons why we have such a sellers’ market in Atlanta real estate.  Now let’s cover how a lender can help win a contract.  We lenders have a few ways to help strengthen our buyers’ offers relative to competitors.

Firstly, many listing agents prefer to work with local lenders rather than the national and online lenders.  The Realtors also like the ability to communicate with local lenders – they can call us with any issues or questions and often get a faster response than with a national lender.  I once had a Realtor who was listing a home tell me, “We chose your client’s offer because they had a letter from you, and we know that you would make the closing happen on time.”  Trust is important and we local lenders work hard to build that trust in our markets.

Secondly, when my clients make an offer, sometimes the listing agent will call me to verify the information provided in the prequalification letter.  I’m always happy to talk with the agents, and I use this as a chance to actively promote my client’s strengths.  I once took a call from a Realtor on the Saturday of a holiday weekend.  When I answered she immediately responded, “Oh thank goodness!  A lender who works Realtor hours not bankers hours.”  We can be available on weekends and in the evenings to help our buyers.  I have volunteered to proactively call listing agents on my client’s behalf.  It helps to promote my client’s strengths.

The most powerful way a lender can help a buyer win a contract is to underwrite the buyer with a “to be determined” property — before the buyer actually makes an offer.  We fully underwrite the buyer, but without the property-specific details.  So there’s no appraisal, no title work, etc. (until a house is under contract).  This gives the ability to provide a letter stating that underwriting has already approved the borrower.  It also allows us to shorten the closing timeframe (since we don’t have to underwrite the buyer again) and potentially eliminate the financing contingency, which is standard on most home purchase contracts.  Having underwriting approval positions the buyer strongly relative to other offers with only prequalification letters.  The only offer stronger is a cash offer.  In competitive markets expecting multiple offers on listed homes, this approach can position the buyer to better win.

If you have a friend or family member who has been making home purchase offers and is frustrated about not winning, have them contact me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will do everything possible (from a lender perspective) to help them win.

 

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.

Georgia’s TV and Film Industry is Booming. Forget Hollywood! Put Down Roots Right Here.

October 26, 2017

On your commute today, you probably passed a yellow TV or movie production sign – they are that common around Atlanta these days.

Look at the numbers:

  • FilmLA says Georgia is the #1 filming location in the world.
  • 320 film & TV productions will be shot here in 2017, generating $9.5 billion in direct spending.
  • The Motion Picture Association of America reports that more than 28,600 Georgians are directly employed by the film industry, while an additional 12,500 people work in production-related jobs.

The movie business may be kind to Georgia, but the mortgage industry traditionally hasn’t been kind to movie makers.

Film and TV studio workers may earn great livings, but they often have irregular employment schedules. Their employer of record can change with each project, and that’s a big red flag for mortgage underwriting. When it comes time to get financing for a home, regularly employed studio employees may be denied because they can’t demonstrate the stable income underwriters demand.

Until now.

I have access to a new loan program that can ease the way to home ownership for film & TV union members. The qualification requirements are simple.

Union members:

  • Who receive W-2s as salary employees
  • Who have two full years of filed tax returns in the film & TV industry

Underwriting will view the union as the employer, rather than the studio, and the union will be able to verify length of employment. The qualifying income will be based on the monthly average income. The borrower will still produce pay stubs to document current year earnings.

If you know someone in the film & TV industry who complains about renting or apartment life, please forward this email.  They may finally be able to put down roots in the new movie mecca.