Posts Tagged ‘historically low interest rates’

The Feds are halfway there

August 22, 2017

One of the Federal Reserve presidents recently said the Fed was halfway home to raising rates. Currently, the rate sits at 1.25%, and the statement implies the target is 2.5%. The San Francisco Fed President feels a rate of 2.5% is the normal target rate for the US economy.

If true, what does that mean for rates, economy, etc.?

One interesting aspect would be the ability of the Fed to help when the economy experiences another downturn – and it will. The economy rises and falls, and it will slow down again at some point. Before 2008, the Federal Funds rate sat at 5.25%. The Fed lowered the rate to virtually zero to help the economy. What happens the next time there is a down turn, and the rate sits at 2.5%? There wouldn’t be as much room to lower the rate to stimulate the economy. Of course, no one expects another down turn like 2008 to happen.

What about mortgage rates? Since the Feds began raising the Federal Funds rate, mortgage rates have improved every time. The only reason rates haven’t set new historic lows is due to the rapid rise of mortgage rates after the 2016 election. In fact, was the dropping of the Federal Funds rate that helped pushed mortgages rate lower. Over the past 5 months, mortgage rates have been flat. As they are near historic lows, there really isn’t that much more room for improvement. That said, more rate hikes could help push them lower as an increasing Federal Funds rate can help mortgage rates improve.

In the end, it will probably be more of the same when it comes to rates… staying low. That has been the Fed’s goal since the 2008 market crash. They’ve achieved this goal by buying bonds and then several rounds of quantitative easing. Now that the economy has improved, the Fed’s attention turns to keeping inflation in check. They do this by increasing the Federal Funds rate, which helps mortgage rates improve (mortgage rates hate inflation). The Fed continues their goal to keep mortgage rates low. When will rates go up? Honestly, at this point, I don’t think anyone knows. I’ll believe it when I see it!

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Potential Shake Up at the Federal Reserve

August 1, 2017

Janet Yellen’s days may be numbered. She is the current head of the Federal Reserve, and her role is up for renewal by President Trump. While he has been coy in the past about his plans to (or not to) replace her, signs are pointing to the fact he might indeed do so.

Trump has made no secret about his desire for low interest rates. This tends to fuel stock values/growth (something President Trump enjoys), but it could cause problems down the road. It also marks a significant shift in the philosophies of our major political parties:

  • Democrats traditionally want lower rates to encourage job and wage growth.
  • Republicans tend to want the Federal Funds rate to be higher to fight off inflation.

There is another angle to consider: Ammunition for the Federal Reserve when there is another economic down turn. Lowering the Federal Funds rate is a classic monetary policy employed by the Federal Reserve to help stimulate the economy in times of slow growth/recession. We saw the Federal Reserve lower the funds rate after the “.com” bubble burst, and then raise it as the economy recovered. This repeated after the housing collapse, and the Feds are now raising the rate again to have this as a fallback position for next time (there will be a next time). If rates are kept low, the Feds won’t have this as an option. Japan have kept their “federal funds” equivalent at zero for many, many years with little impact. They recently started a “negative” rate policy that has also shown little results in getting their economy back on track.

It is a delicate balance, and will be interesting to see how it plays out.

The question that most people reading this blog want to know is how will this impact mortgage rates. Mortgage rates tend to work in opposite fashion to the Federal Funds rate.

  • the Federal Funds rate directly impacts rates on second mortgages, car loans, credit cards.
  • mortgage rates are determined by the value of mortgage backed security bonds. These bonds (and all bonds) hate inflation. As inflation rises, bond values drop. As bond values go down, mortgage rates go up.

It stands to reason that mortgage rates could improve as the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funding Rate. That is exactly what has happened as the Fed raised rates. Mortgage rates improved after the Federal Reserve raised rates in December 2015. Mortgage rates skyrocketed after the election (when stock prices went up dramatically). Mortgage rates have improved since the Fed began raising the Federal Funds rate again at the end of 2016 and into 2017 (while stock values have been mostly flat/slightly higher).

It will be fascinating to watch how this unfolds as traditional party philosophies, the economy, monetary policy, and mortgage rates all stand to be impacted by the decision.

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.

Credit Score Basics for Home Buyers

February 9, 2017

A recent survey reported that 2.7 times more first time home buyers than repeat buyers believe they must improve their credit scores before buying a house.  First let’s dispel credit score myths.  A home buyer can possibly win mortgage approval with a credit score as low as 620.  If your score is 620 or higher, you can possibly win loan approval.

If your score is less than 620, you need to work to improve it before you can qualify.  If your score is 620 or higher, you may want to take steps to increase your score as better scores tend to lower mortgage costs.  Note that I am not a credit score repair specialist, but here are some basic, fundamental tips to improve your credit score:

Pay down your credit card balances:  You get the best score on each credit card account when your balance is less than 1/3 of that account’s credit limit.  Your score drops when your balance is more than 1/3 of the limit.  And your score drops even further if your score is more than ½ of the credit limit. 

Pay your bills on time:  Late payments lower your score.  The later the payment, the more your score is penalized.

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Time heals all wounds:  The more time that has elapsed since your last late payment, the less those late payments will affect your current score.  Some credit issues have mandatory waiting periods.  For example, if your credit report shows a bankruptcy, 2 years must elapse before you can obtain a FHA mortgage, and 3 years must elapse before you can qualify for a conventional mortgage. 

Resolve account disputes now:  Mortgage underwriters hate account disputes.  If you have disputes on credit accounts, go ahead and resolve them prior to applying for a mortgage.

Be aware of collections accounts:  Note that I didn’t say to pay them off.  Sometimes, paying off a collection account will actually lower your credit score.  If you want to buy a home in the next 12 months or so, it may be best to just know about the collections accounts – you may have to deal with them as part of your mortgage process.  In some cases, we require the borrower to bring enough cash to close and to pay off collections account balances as part of the mortgage closing process.

If you want to buy a house in Georgia, get a good idea of your credit score and your monthly debt payments.  Then call me to discuss your loan options.  I’ll invest time coaching you on the best ways to help you win loan approval. 

More mortgage questions?  Check out our home buyer educational videos.

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How Could Fed Rate Increase Affect Mortgage Rates?

December 20, 2016

For the first time in a year, the United States Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by 0.25%.  How will that impact mortgage interest rates?

Here’s a history lesson:  The last time the FED raised the federal funds rate was in December 2015.  By the end of January 2016, mortgage interest rates actually improved by about a half point.  Mortgage rates then stayed flat (for the most part) until June and July, when they continued to improve.  Mortgage rates stayed at this very low level until election day.  From election day through December 15, 2016,  mortgage interest rates increased about 0.75%.

When trying to analyze mortgage interest rates, it makes sense to look at a mortgage loan as an investment.  Here’s why…Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase most of the conforming mortgages originated in the USA.  They “pool” these mortgages into mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”) which are bought and sold on Wall Street just like other investments.  MBS provide investors with regular, predictable income (from the interest payments on the mortgages), so they are considered less “risky” than stocks and mutual funds.

But ultimately, MBS must compete with all other investments for investors’ dollars.  In the recent, post-election period, stock values have increased making equity investments more attractive.  To compete, lenders had to raise mortgage interest rates to provide a greater return and compete with the high-flying equities.

 

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In addition, China has been selling large amounts of its US government debt holdings.  As China sells, that creates pressure to raise interest rates on US government debt.  Again, government debt competes with MBS for investor dollars.  As interest rates on government debt increase, mortgage rates may have to rise to remain attractive to investors.

So what is a home buyer to do?  If you plan to buy soon, you can relax knowing that, once you get a home under contract, your lender can lock your interest rate through your closing date.  This means that if market interest rates rise between the time you lock your rate until closing, you still pay the lower rate specified in your lock.  You are protected against rate increases.

In addition, Dunwoody Mortgage offers a free interest rate float down on some mortgage products.  This means that, if market mortgage rates drop after you lock your rate, we might be able to lower your rate before closing.  With the free float down, after you lock your rate, you are protected should interest rates increase, and you may still be allowed to benefit if market rates decrease.

Ultimately, we at Dunwoody Mortgage are working in the best interest of our borrowers.  If you are looking to buy a house anywhere in Georgia, and mortgage interest rate changes make you nervous, contact me.  We can set you up with a loan program that can help protect you against the ups and downs of mortgage interest rate changes.

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Interest Rates Jump

November 15, 2016

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One thing that I did not expect from this election was the change in interest rates.  Mortgage interest rates on November 14 were a half a percentage point higher than they were on November 7.  Rates are still close to their historic lows, and still lower than rates back in the second half of 2015, but they definitely have taken a quick upward turn in the last week.  And there’s really no way to predict how far rates may rise.  For a better understanding of what drives mortgage interest rates, take a look at these prior posts:  https://themortgageblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/interest-rates-lower-from-brexit/ and https://themortgageblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/feds-may-not-raise-rates-at-all-this-year/

While I don’t have a crystal ball to forecast interest rates, I will simply apply a bit of common sense.  Interest rates have been very, very low for multiple years now.  There really isn’t much opportunity for rates to go lower.  So logically, if rates are going to move, they will likely go up.  If you are ready to buy a house, how do you protect yourself from a rate increase?  Answer:  You lock your rate.

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When a home buyer goes under contract, I can lock rates for periods from 30 days up to 90 days.  The longer the rate lock period, the higher the price.  Locking your interest rate is the sure way to protect yourself against rate increases.  I locked a refinance on November 8, just before the close of business.  I hate to think that this client’s rate would now be 0.50% higher if we had delayed.  Because she locked for 45 days, her rate will not increase if we close the loan before the end of business on December 23.  As long as you can close before the lock expires, your rate will not change.  If something delays closing past the lock expiration, that might cost you.  (Moral of the story, quickly respond to any request from your loan officer.  Delays can cost you.)

Borrowers also want to know what happens if market rates decrease after they lock their interest rate.  Dunwoody Mortgage can also offer a free rate float down option on some loans.  If your qualifying rate drops by more than 0.25% and we can relock it (1) less than 30 days and (2) more than 7 days before closing, we may be able to do that at no charge.

So if you want to buy a home and you are worried about interest rate fluctuations, know that Dunwoody Mortgage can protect you regardless of which way the market moves.  Moving forward with a Georgia home purchase soon?  Call me here at Dunwoody Mortgage now, before rates go up any more.  We can answer your questions and offer the counsel to best protect you against interest rate changes.

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Feds may not raise rates at all this year

October 18, 2016


blog-author-clayjeffreys3

Well over a year ago, the Federal Reserve indicated they would begin raising the Federal Funding Rate. This started in December 2015 when the rate increased by 0.250% for the first time in almost a decade. While we didn’t expect a 0.250% increase each time the Feds met this year, surely there would be another increase at some point. Right?

The year is almost over, and the Feds have stood their ground. The comments from the most recent Fed meeting made it sound as if it is doubtful there would be an increase this year, but could be in 2017 as the economy continues to reach employment goals.

Does that mean potential buyers should panic as rates may go up in 2017? No, it doesn’t.

  • The Federal Funding rate does not impact mortgage rates. When the Federal Funding rate increases, rates go up on second mortgages, credit cards, car loans, etc.
  • Mortgage Rates go up and down along with the value of Mortgage Backed Security Bonds. To see plenty of previous posts on this topic, do a search for “MBS” in the “search this site” box in the upper right corner of the page.
  • The last time the Feds raised the Federal Funding Rate, Mortgage Rates improved. Rates are roughly 0.500% lower now than they were in December 2015.

So what to make of this? Don’t make home buying plans on what the Feds may or may not do. Don’t buy a home out of fear of rates going up. The best strategy is to get prequalified to buy a home, and purchase a home when the time is right for you… and not what the Feds or media dictates.

Looking to buy a home in Georgia? Contact me today. I’ll get you prequalified and get you ready for your home buying experience.

 

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #2

October 12, 2016

The last post covered the credit score component of a credit report.  But remember, there is much more to a mortgage credit report than just the score.  After looking at a client’s credit score, I next review any public record filed against the client (let’s call him “Matt”) in a court of law.  These include liens, judgements, foreclosures, and bankruptcies.  How do these items affect Matt’s ability to win loan approval?

  • Liens – A tax lien is a big red flag. The IRS doesn’t play around when it comes to collecting money you owe them.  And lenders don’t want to get in line behind the IRS when it comes to collecting payments.  If Matt has a tax lien, he will likely need to pay it off before we can win loan approval.  We may be able to win loan approval if Matt has a tax lien, but it will take some extra work.
  • Bankruptcies – Bankruptcies stay on a credit report for 7 years.  Matt cannot obtain a conventional loan for 4 years following the bankruptcy discharge date (the date when Matt was officially released from personal liability for debts included in the bankruptcy).  For FHA loans, the waiting period is 2 years after the bankruptcy discharge date.  There are some differences in how we treat Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcies.
  • Foreclosures – Foreclosures also stay on a credit report for 7 years.  It is possible to win loan approval even with a foreclosure.  For conventional loans, a 7 year waiting period is required.  For FHA loans a 3 year waiting period is required.  And note that the clock starts when the foreclosing bank sells the old house to someone else.  Not when the bank first takes the house.
Gavel with money background

Gavel with money background

  • Short Sales – Once again, short sales stay on the report for 7 years. A short sale occurs when a loan servicer agrees to the sale of a property by the borrower to a third-party for less than the outstanding mortgage balance.  Waiting periods are 4 years for a conventional loans and 2 years for FHA loans.
  • Legal Judgments – Outstanding legal judgements must be paid off prior to or at closing.  Note that we can include payment of Matt’s legal judgments as part of the closing itself.

There is much more to a credit report than just the score.  When a lender pulls your report and quickly says “you qualify,” he or she might be doing you a disservice.  You want a lender who will take some time to look closely at your report, and deal with any potential issues up front.  If you plan to buy a home in Georgia and expect your lender to invest time in the details, call Dunwoody Mortgage Services.  We will help you avoid surprises.

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The Simplest Loan Around – Part 3

September 8, 2016

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Continuing the FHA streamline refinance theme… Here’s an example.  I’m currently talking with Confidential.  Confidential is self-employed.  Confidential’s spouse, Anonymous, recently took a new all-commission sales job. 

With a standard mortgage, the income and employment verification for Confidential and Anonymous would be very tedious at best, and they likely may not qualify.  Underwriters want to see a 24 month history of income for self-employed persons.  And they will average the 24 month income to determine the borrower’s current monthly income.  That hurts self-employed borrowers whose incomes are growing.  But those normal underwriting concerns do not apply to the FHA Streamline Refinance!

The interest rate on Confidential and Anonymous’ current mortgage is 4.75%.  That is high by today’s standards.  The good news is that they bought their home with a FHA loan several years ago.  I quoted Confidential and Anonymous a new FHA interest rate at less than 3.5%, and we expect to lower their monthly payment by over $220!  Given the closing costs for the loan, this refinance will pay for itself in less than a year.  After that, they are saving over $2,500 per year!

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I’m not worried about this loan being approved in spite of the fact that Confidential and Anonymous are self-employed and they cannot provide the standard 24 month income history.  And we don’t have to fret about an appraisal value.  They have made all FHA mortgage payments on time, and this refinance will reduce their payment by over 15%.  They qualify for what might be the easiest loan around – the FHA Streamline Refinance.

So how do you determine if a refinance is right for you?  There are many considerations, but we have a couple of rules of thumb:  (1) If you can lower your payment by $100 per month or more, and (2) if the refinance will “pay for itself”* in 36 months or less, then you may want to investigate refinancing options.  (*Divide the loan closing costs by the estimated monthly savings to calculate how many months will pass before the savings cover the entire cost of the refinance.  If this time period is 3 years or less, then refinancing may be a good option for you.)

If you want to lower your current monthly payment by taking advantage of current low, low mortgage interest rates, contact me here at Dunwoody Mortgage.  I will take the time to help you understand all of the options available to you, and I will coach you to make the best financial decision possible for you and your family.

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