Posts Tagged ‘interest rates’

Home Affordability at its Highest Point in Years

November 1, 2019

According to a recent report by Black Knight, Inc., home affordability reached its best level in years in August 2019.  This follows a consistent decline in home affordability from late 2016 through late 2018.  Home affordability hit a nine-year low in November 2018, as mortgage rates rose to the 5% range.  At that time, the national home payment to income ratio rose to 23.7%.  According to Black Rock, this led to an extended slow down in home price growth.

Since November 2018, mortgage rate declines plus this slower home appreciation has greatly improved home affordability.  The national payment to income ratio has dropped to 20.7%.  This ratio means that the monthly principal and interest (P&I) payment on an average-priced home now requires only 20.7% of the national median income.

Put another way, interest rate declines between November 2018 and August 2019 has increased home buying power by about $46,000. In August 2019, a home buyer would pay the same P&I amount on a $246,000 home mortgage as she would have paid on a $200,000 home mortgage in November 2018.

On the other hand, I found websites and recent articles showing that Atlanta-area rents have risen around 4% in the preceding 12 months.  In short, owning a home in Atlanta has gotten more affordable while renting has gotten more expensive.

Do you rent your home in Georgia?  Has your rent increased making money tight?  Give me a call and let’s talk about mortgage affordability.  You don’t need perfect credit to buy a home, and you will need only a minimum 3% to 3.5% for your down payment.  (Military veterans can obtain VA loans with a 0% down payment.)  With the current low mortgage rates, you might be able to buy more home than you thought you could, for a lower monthly payment than you thought you would have to make.  And with buying a home, you will get the equity / wealth benefits from potential home appreciation.  It’s a GREAT time to buy a home in Georgia!!

American Homebuying Power Grows

September 26, 2019

Overall economic circumstances keep improving for potential homebuyers.  First American’s Real House Price Index (RHPI) shows that Americans’ homebuying power increased consistently from January through July 2019.  The index tracks single-family home price changes adjusted for mortgage interest rate changes and personal income changes.

Mortgage interest rates trended downward during the first half of 2019, and they are even lower now compared to mid-year.  First American reported mortgage rates in January were 4.5%, and rates moved into the 3’s over the summer.  Average household income increased over the same time period.

Decreasing mortgage rates combined with increasing household incomes provide a double boost to Americans’ home buying power.  The Index’s “house-buying power” for consumers increased roughly 10% from January through July.  According to First American’s Chief Economist, Mark Fleming, “House-buying power is at the highest it’s been since we began tracking it in 1991.”

That means now is a great time to buy a home!  Even though home prices have been increasing, the decrease in mortgage rates coupled with household income growth make right now the best time to buy a home in almost 30 years, based on the RHPI measures.

Do you have a Georgia friend who complains about a landlord who won’t fix problems?  Let them know that their homebuying power is stronger than it has been in decades, and connect them with me.  I’ll help them obtain the best home mortgage for their unique situation as quickly as possible.  I’ll help your friend take advantage of today’s really low mortgage rates before they increase to 2018 levels or even higher.  Together, we will fire their unresponsive landlord!

Types of Mortgages – FHA

July 23, 2019

Given recent mortgage program changes, now is a good time to review the pros and cons of the major loan programs and when borrower circumstances favor one specific loan program.  In the last few years, many of our clients have used the conventional Home Ready program.   Without Home Ready, many of these buyers would have used FHA loans.  Given the Home Ready changes, we expect more future buyers to use FHA loans.

So let’s talk about FHA loans!

  • In the metro-Atlanta area, buyers can purchase homes up to about $390,000 using a minimum down payment (3.5%) FHA loan.  That is a lot of home!
  • Relative to conventional mortgages, FHA loans are generally more forgiving of credit “issues.”  This means lower credit score borrowers will most likely get a better FHA interest rate versus a conventional loan.
  • FHA allows for lower credit scores and shorter wait times following derogatory credit events, such as foreclosure or bankruptcy.  Borrowers typically need a 620 score to qualify.  Depending on other borrower details, Dunwoody Mortgage may be able to close loans where the borrower’s credit score is as low as 580.

Both FHA and conventional loans require monthly mortgage insurance “MI” for down payments less than 20%.  For FHA, the monthly premium is a flat 0.85% of the loan amount.  Conventional loans determine the premium based on the borrower’s credit score and down payment.  FHA loans also have an up-front mortgage insurance premium.  FHA monthly MI is permanent if the down payment is less than 10%.  Note that Congress is now considering a bill to automatically cancel FHA MI similar to how conventional loans cancel the insurance.  More to come on this story.

In the next post, we will review conventional loan details.  For now, if you know someone looking to buy a Georgia home, please refer them to me.  We Dunwoody Mortgage professionals understand the key loan program details and we coach our buyers to make the best decision given their circumstances.  We can help our clients find ways to lower interest and mortgage insurance costs.  We have a strong record full of very positive customer reviews.


Should I Refinance Now?

June 20, 2019

As recently reported in The Mortgage Blog, mortgage interest rates have dropped to their lowest level in over two years.  The last time rates were consistently this low was just before the 2016 Presidential election.  For people who purchased homes since then, it may make sense to refinance now.  So how do you decide if a refinance is right for you?

I read one article from a major think tank stating you should refinance for a rate that is a specific amount lower than your current rate.  I believe that is a bit simplistic and you should crunch numbers in more detail.  I recommend comparing the financial benefits against the cost of refinancing – the total amount you can save each month versus the refinance cost.

With a rate / term refi, you will save by lowering your monthly interest payments and, possibly, by lowering or eliminating private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments.  I recommend you focus on the dollar savings.  A 0.5% interest rate change on a $100,000 loan will save you much less per month than the same interest rate change on a $400,000 mortgage.  Eliminating or reducing PMI payments can provide significantly lower monthly payments.  To eliminate PMI, you must must have 20% equity.  Perhaps your home’s value has increased since you bought it.  You can capture this higher value as equity in the new loan using a new appraisal value.  If the appraisal shows you have greater equity, even if it’s less than 20%, you may see your PMI payment reduced, perhaps substantially.

How do I analyze the savings?  I estimate a new monthly payment based on the lower interest rate and potential PMI changes and compare this rate versus their current payment.  Then I divide the refi closing cost by the monthly savings to get a “break even” point.  If the monthly savings break even on the closing costs in three years or less, I typically recommend that the client pursue the refinance.  Why three years?  It seems most people have a general idea of their plans for the next three years or so.  Anything further than that becomes a little murkier.  I’m currently working with a client who has a $335,000 loan.  I estimate a refinance will save her $150 per month and will “break even” in about 22 months.  That seems like a wise financial move to me.

 

Another option to consider is a cash out refinance.  Is there a home project you want to do?  Perhaps a kitchen or bathroom renovation?  I have clients using their home equity and lower interest rates to take cash out for a project, and still have the same payment (or even a better payment) than they have now.

Do you know someone who bought a Georgia home in 2017 or 2018?  Ask them what they would do with an extra $100 per month.  Then refer them to me.  I’ll run the numbers to determine whether refinancing is a wise move.

 

Interest rates move lower

June 18, 2019

Interest rates/Mortgage rates (same thing) moved to a two year low earlier in the month. While rates have since rose a bit, they are much lower than the start of the year.

Rates are well over a half point better since the start of the year. This decrease is beneficial for two reasons. First, it is helpful for those out looking to buy a home right now. Let’s say someone was looking to get a loan for $250,000. With the improvement in rates, a buyer can now get a loan for $265,000 and have the same payment. More buying power!

The other is for existing home owners. The Chief Economist at Freddie Mac said with rates dipping below 4%, “there are over $2 trillion of outstanding residential loans eligible to be refinanced – meaning the majority of what was originated in 2018 is now eligible”

So… should I refinance? A couple of questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Did I purchase a home in 2018? If yes, then rates are definitely lower than when you bought. It would be worth looking into what a new payment could be with a lower rate.
  2. Are current 30 year fixed rates of at/below 4% better than a half a point or more than your current rate? If yes, then it is worth looking at the numbers.
  3. Considering taking some equity out for a home project? I am working with several clients doing a cash out refinance. With the drop in rates, these clients are getting a lower rate, cash out for home maintenance, and keeping a similar payment to what they are making now.

Do you fit into any of those questions? If yes, it might be time to review the numbers for a potential refinance. If you are a homeowner in the state of Georgia, contact me today! In a short phone call, we can decide if the time is right for a refinance. If rates aren’t low enough for it to make sense, we can set a target rate and I’ll contact you when rates move lower. It is that easy. If nothing else, it is worth inquiring to make sure you don’t miss out on this drop in mortgage rates!

Trade wars and mortgage rates

May 14, 2019

Last week was to be the culmination of negotiations between the US and China about a trade deal. Then came some finger pointing, blaming, and honestly tactics you see as negotiations come to an end. What is all of this doing to the market? I’m glad you asked!

Stocks were all over the place last week and this week… down 500 points to open one day only to rebound and finish the day flat… down a few hundred points… down over 600 points Monday… up 350 points as I write this post. Stocks are all over the map.

Brace yourselves!

Mortgage rates are in a similar position. The talk toward the end of the year (slowing economy, trade wars, bad economic news) pushed mortgage rates lower. In fact, rates are well over a half a point lower today than they were this time last year. The many months of tariffs and speculation pushed stocks lower and rates higher.

What happens with the trade negotiations:

  • If a trade deal is reached, one would expect stocks to rebound back to their all-time highs. Obviously this depends on the final details of the trade agreement, but overall expect to see rates get a little worse.
  • If both sides walk away from the negotiating table, then expect stocks to get worse and mortgage rates continue to improve.

What to do? If considering a refinance, this is a good time to move forward. Mortgage rates are as low as they’ve been in over a year. If considering a refinance to lower one’s rate OR take equity out of a home, there hasn’t been a better time in quite some time to do it. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about buying a home hoping rates could go lower, this angle is trickier. On the one hand, sure, mortgage rates could improve should trade negotiations fail. On the other hand, rates were much higher than they are now when stocks were at all-time highs. If a trade deal is finalized, we could see stocks jump back up to or surpass the all-time high. If that happens, expect mortgage rates to rise. It’s no coincidence that mortgage rates improved towards the end of 2018 as stock values fell. The same will happen should stocks take off again.

With rates sitting as low as they’ve been in over a year, now is the time to take advantage of them whether you are looking to purchase or refinance. If you are in need of a mortgage in the state of Georgia, contact me today. I can have you ready to move forward on a purchase or refinance is a little over 10 minutes. It’s that easy!

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.


Mortgage rates rise again

October 16, 2018

Mortgage rates are on the rise (from the dead?!? 🎃🎃🎃Happy Halloween! 🎃🎃🎃) again in the month of October. Mortgage rates jumped sharply to yearly highs and to levels not see in over seven years. Mortgage rates for a 30 year fixed loan are nearing 5%. What is going on!?!

Mortgage rates rising can be scary!

A year ago, mortgage rates were just under 4%… that is about a full point lower than they are today. I know what a lot of people think… “it is because of the Federal Reserve raising rates.” Not exactly.

The Federal Reserve raised rates three times so far this year at 0.250% each time. That means the Federal Funds Rate is up 0.750% on the year, but mortgage rates are up almost 1%. Why the difference?

  • the Federal Funds rate directly impacts the rate on second mortgages, car loans, credit card rates, etc.
  • bond values – specifically mortgage backed security bonds (or MBS bonds)- impact rates for first mortgages. As these bond values decrease, mortgage rates increase.

That is what we’ve seen this year. Stocks are up on the year, the economy is better, and MBS bond values are down… meaning, higher mortgage rates. Remember the reason we saw all time historic lows for mortgage rates was two-fold.

First, the economy went through the Great Recession. In this environment, investors move money out of stocks and into bonds. The more money into bonds mean those values go up, and mortgage rates go down. As the economy improved, more money is going into stocks and out of bonds (bond values drop and mortgage rates rise).

Second, the Federal Reserve purchased bonds (quantitative easing or QE) to help push rates down to stimulate the housing market. The economy is now doing well, the Federal Reserve ended QE, and the Feds are now selling off some of the bonds they bought during QE. All of the factors pushing rates to historic lows are gone, and the current environment on rates is pushing them up. This trend doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.

What can we expect? Earlier this year, mortgage rates jumped 0.75%, but recovered about half of those losses. We can expect to see some market fluctuations, and possibly some positive improvements in mortgage rates. Those looking for rates to get below 4% again? Those days are long behind us now, and probably not returning anytime soon.

Worried about rates going up even more? Considering buying a home but waiting for the right time? If you are buying in Georgia, contact me today. Let’s talk about what buying a home would look like for you, and see how the current dynamics in play will impact your next home purchase.

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.