Posts Tagged ‘how much home can I afford’

Low housing inventory

May 22, 2018

It is definitely a seller’s market. The amount of inventory on the market is well below what is considered a balanced market – 6 months of homes is ideal. In the metro Atlanta area, the actual inventory is hovering around 3 months. Atlanta is not alone. Most major cities and almost all of the US faces a shortage of homes.

How did we get here?

I am sure many of you have heard the stat that a couple of hundred thousand jobs need to be created each month to keep up with population growth/new people entering the job market. Well, the same holds true for the housing market. Due to homes becoming dilapidated, burned down, flooded, disaster area, etc. you need new homes built every year to keep up with population growth. That is where one of our inventory problems lie. You see, housing construction has not kept pace with population growth in the U.S. for more than a decade. In order to catch up across the nation, builders will need to construct 7.3 million more homes. Also, home construction per household is near the lowest level in 60 years, John Rappaport, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, told the Wall Street Journal.

From 2009-2013/2014, it was a buyer’s market. There were too many homes on the market due to foreclosures and short sales from the housing crash. Now the pendulum swung the other way, and it is a seller’s market. Eventually, it will balance out, but that is of little solace for someone buying a home right now. Is there anything a buyer can do in this market to be more competitive with other buyers?

Yes, there is! Instead of doing a prequalification or pre-approval, buyers can start the loan process prior to being under contract to purchase a home. By going through underwriting early, I can provide my clients with a letter that says they are credit qualified and can close once an acceptable appraisal is back on the home. This can turn into a very quick close for a seller and gives the seller confidence in the buyer’s ability to close on the home loan.

Out there looking for your new home? Are you finding it to be a competitive environment? Give yourself an advantage by going through the underwriting process prior to being under contract. If you are looking to buy in the state of Georgia, contact me today. We can get the loan process started and put you on your way to home ownership.

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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.

 

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!

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.

New guidelines for PMI

March 5, 2018

Not that long ago, conventional loan guidelines began allowing borrowers to have a back debt to income ratio as high as 50%. The “back” ratio is the new housing payment + all other debt / monthly income. The limit was 45%, so the increase allowed  borrowers to carry a slightly higher debt threshold. This is closer to what FHA allows (up to 55%).

Private Mortgage Insurance companies observed the change, and then began making changes of their own. As of this post, all but one of the major PMI companies have changed their guidelines to reflect the following requirement. For borrowers with a debt to income ratio at 45-50%, their credit score must be over 700. For all other borrowers with a debt to income ratio under 45 %, credit scores can go as low as 620. While this change won’t impact a majority of home buyers, it is significant. Basically, if a buyer has a higher debt to income ratio and  a credit score under 700, then they must use an FHA loan to buy a home (or VA if they qualify for a VA loan). For now, conventional loans may not be an option.

Guidelines change frequently, and this could be temporary to see how conventional loans with a debt to income ratio of 45-50% perform. Hopefully that will be the case, but for now, it is in place.

Planning on using a conventional loan to purchase a home, but have a high debt to income ratio? If you are buying a home in Georgia, let’s talk sooner rather than later and make sure no changes need to be made to current plans.

HELOC interest potentially tax deductible

February 27, 2018

A clarification has been issued by the Internal Revenue Service about the deductibility of interest that is paid on home-equity lines.

Under the Republican tax law, joint taxpayers can deduct interest on home loans. This includes first mortgages used to secure primary and secondary homes. OK. Sounds right. Nothing unusual so far…

What caused a ruckus was the suspension of the interest deduction for home-equity loans, home-equity lines of credit and second mortgages from 2018 until 2026.

But an exception exists!

WHAT?? Really? Tell me more!

The IRS clarified the new tax law in response to many questions submitted to the IRS by taxpayers and tax professionals. According to IR-2018-32 issued Tuesday by the agency, when HELs & HELOCs are utilized to buy, build or substantially improve the residential properties used as security for the loans, the interest is tax deductible. An example of a deductible expense is when the proceeds from the loan are used to build an addition to an existing home. On the other hand, if the proceeds from lines of credit are utilized to pay off personal expenses, no deduction is allowed.

As was the case under the prior law, the equity line loan must be secured by a primary residence or second home, not exceed the cost of the home, and meet other requirements.

How to proceed? Contact your tax professional. While the IRS provided the clarification, it also said “meet other requirements.” The IRS also did not distinguish how to apply if portions of the equity line was used. For example, what if someone has a $100,000 equity line. They use $80,000 for an addition to the home, but $20,000 to pay off credit card debt.

While this is welcome news, its application can still be tricky. Contact your tax professional today to find out more. If you need a referral to a tax professional, do let me know!

PIWs are back!

October 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Relatives Buy a Home – Cash Gifts

September 19, 2017

Our recent posts have debunked home buying myths and reviewed tools that can help young adults (or any other home buyers) buy a home.  To recap, buyers can often win mortgage approval with down payments of 5%, 3.5%, and even 3%, if the buyer qualifies.  If the buyer is short on cash to close, there are multiple ways to help cover the cash shortfall.  In this post, let’s review how a home buyer can receive a cash gift from a relative.

First and foremost, the gift must come from a current relative such as a spouse, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  I have encountered a situation where an ex-spouse was willing to give money for closing, but that is not allowed.  The ex-spouse is no longer considered a “relative” so that will not work.

Secondly, the cash provided must be a gift given to the home buyer.  This cannot be a loan.  Both the giver and recipient must sign documents declaring that the cash is truly a gift and no repayment is expected.  We call this the “gift letter” and it specifies details about the giver, the recipient, the relationship, the gift amount, the gift date, and the source of the gift funds.

Thirdly, we must document a “paper trail” to win underwriting approval.  The documents required depend on HOW the gift is delivered to the recipient.  In all gift situations, the giver must submit their most recent bank statement showing that they have the funds to make the gift and that the account truly belongs to them.  In addition, other documents can be required depending on the gift delivery, as shown below:

  • The giver can wire the funds directly to the closing attorney.  In this case, only the gift letter and the bank statement described above are needed.
  • The giver can electronically transfer the funds to the recipient’s bank account.  In this case, the giver must show a bank account activity listing showing the funds transfer and the recipient must show a bank account activity listing showing the deposit, in addition to the gift letter and bank statement.
  • The giver can write a check to the recipient.  In this case, the borrower must submit a copy of the gift check in addition to all other gift documents described above.

The key here is advance planning to make sure all documents are ready and submitted in a timely manner so the loan can close on time.

Do you know a parent of an adult child who wants to help that child buy their first home?  Refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage. We will make sure document the gift right the first time, so everyone can be happy with an on-time closing.

Beyond the Down Payment…Cash to Close

August 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homebuyers squeezed out of the market

June 13, 2017

Last week there were a series of articles published by the Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, and more describing how Millennials are being squeezed out of buying homes. For the most part, articles focused solely on lending requirements. Honestly, that misses the mark on what is really going on out there right now. Let’s dig into this a little more.

The articles primarily focused on how lending guidelines are stricter. While that is true when compared to 2007, lending requirements have loosened up quite a bit over the past several years. Here are some quick examples:

  • Conventional loans allow borrowers with a credit score of 620 (the same as FHA). Average credit is 660-680 depending on what article/source you read, so home buyers with below average credit can qualify to purchase a home.
  • Smaller down payments are back. VA and USDA loans do not require a down payment, FHA only requires 3.5% down, and Conventional loans can be used to buy a home with as little as 3% down.
  • Self-employed borrowers with an established business of 5+ years can qualify to buy a home with only one year of tax returns.
  • Condos can be purchased with as little as 3% down.
  • Rental income from investment properties can be used even if the property hasn’t been rented out for two years.

Lending guidelines are much more lenient today than they were just a few years ago. That isn’t really the problem.

A Washington Post article from January discussed the elephant in the room, and nailed it when it comes to the issue that all home buyers are facing – inventory.

I attended a Realtor meeting recently where a stat was given stating there is less than a 3-month supply of homes available in in-town Atlanta. A balanced market is a 6-month supply, and nationwide the supply of homes is well under 6 months. That’s not good. Think it is bad in Atlanta? It’s worse in Seattle. The lack of inventory puts Millennials (and any home buyer with a smaller down payment) at a disadvantage. Also, it is pushing home values higher than a normal market due to the impact of supply and demand.

How does one compete in this market? A few things come to mind.

  1. Home buyers must go out and look at homes as soon as they are listed. This can be difficult depending on one’s schedule, but homes are going under contract in a few days in most cases.
  2. Home buyers should be underwritten prior to going out to look at a home. This way the offer letter isn’t a prequalification letter or pre-approval letter, but the letter can read the home buyers are “approved to purchase a home pending a satisfactory appraisal, clear title, and sufficient insurance coverage.” That is much stronger than a simple “prequalification” letter, and I go into more detail this in a previous blog post.

By planning and being ready to move on a home at a moment’s notice, home buyers can increase their odds of getting under contract on a home.

Looking to purchase in Georgia? Wanting to get ahead of the game? Contact me today, and we’ll get started toward achieving the goal of your home ownership!