Posts Tagged ‘mortgage rates’

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.

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Any hope for mortgage rates?

February 15, 2018

As my colleague recently posted, mortgage rates are off to a rough start this year. As of this post, mortgage rates are a half point higher for the year. I won’t dig into the details of why this is happening. Rodney did a great job of it in his recent post. Today, I’ll focus on what can turn the tide for mortgage rates.

Stocks have suffered a rough start to the new year too. That is normally great news for mortgage rates. Normally as stock prices fall, bond values rise, and mortgage rates improve. The Dow fell over 2,000 points at one moment over the past few weeks, and yet mortgage rates also got worse. If a 2,000 point drop couldn’t help mortgage rates, what can?!?

We must look back at one of the root causes Rodney discussed – inflation. Mortgage rates hate inflation as it eats away at the value of mortgage backed security bonds. As those bond prices fall, mortgage rates rise. The way to help mortgage rates is to combat inflation. The best weapon we have at our disposal is the Federal Funds Rate… the Federal Reserve can continue increasing the Federal Funds Rate. In fact, every time they’ve done that over the past couple of years, mortgage rates have initially improved. Why? The higher the Federal Funds Rate goes, the more it can combat inflation.

Of course, the flip side is raising it too much can cool off the economy (don’t want that). Also, with the new budget deal passed last week by the government, more bonds will be sold to fund the increases to our national budget. More bonds available for sale also lower bond values, pushing mortgage rates higher. As I said in a post late last year, the environment for mortgage rates to get worse is here. That seems to be occurring. While mortgage rates are still low, the time of super low rates could finally be behind us.

The Federal Reserve could increase the Federal Funds Rate to fight inflation and help mortgage rates, but given the other factors at play, the increase to the funds rate may not help improve rates over the long haul for the time being.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about purchasing a home over the past year because “rates are so low, why hurry,” the time may be now. If you are purchasing in the state of Georgia, contact me. We can get the prequalification process completed in minutes and have you ready to go out and find your new home!

Republican tax plan and mortgage rates

December 12, 2017

All signs are pointing to the Republican party passing tax reform. The Republicans are using the “budge reconciliation” process to get the bill passed. By going this route, the Republicans avoid the need for 60 votes for approval in the Senate while preventing the Democrats the ability to use  a filibuster. Whether you opposed tax reform OR couldn’t wait until it arrived, tax reform seems likely to be here once the House and Senate finish reconciling their two tax reform bills.

What does this mean for mortgage rates?

Initially, nothing. On the surface, tax reform has no direct impact on mortgage rates. This is just like when the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funds Rate. The Funds rate impacts second mortgages, car loans, credit card rates, etc., and not mortgage rates. But…. the impact these have on the market can impact mortgage rates.

Stocks have been on a major rally for roughly two years now. The DOW continues to set record highs. Why the surge? Wall Street has bet on tax reform that would benefit business. Trump’s election prompted a big rally back in November 2016, and this rally continued throughout 2017.

Now that tax reform is here, stocks seem poised to continue their good run and maybe continue to push higher. As stock values rise, bond prices normally fall due to the fact that people are putting more money into stocks than bonds. As bond values fall (specifically mortgage backed security bonds), mortgage rates go up. While tax reform doesn’t directly affect mortgages rates, the impact on stocks can influence mortgage rates.

Frequent readers of this blog are aware of how stock prices/mortgage backed security bond prices impact mortgage rates. If you are new to this blog, use this link to read past posts about the subject. 

Currently mortgage rates are definitely off of their yearly lows and moving back toward their yearly highs of 2017. Combine tax reform, continued stock market rally, and the Federal Reserve no longer purchasing bonds from quantitative easing (they are beginning to sell their bonds now), and you have an environment where mortgage rates could go noticeably higher.

Market analysts have said for years now (since 2010) that “this is the year mortgage rates go up,” and rates haven’t gone up. When do I think rates will go up? At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it. That said, the environment for mortgage rates to increase is as real as it has ever been in the past several years.

Considering refinancing or buying a home, but been pushing it off since rates are so low? Maybe now is the time to at least have a conversation about your plans, timing, and how to proceed? If the home loan will be in the state of Georgia, I can help! Contact me today and we’ll get started!

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.

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.

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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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #1

October 5, 2016

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This news may shock you – mortgage underwriters actually look at a borrower’s credit report.  Notice I said, credit report, not credit score.  The score is only one component of the full report.

When we pull a credit report, the first thing we do review is the credit score.  If the score doesn’t qualify, there’s no need to spend time on the report details.  My lending guidelines state that minimum qualifying credit scores for my clients are:

  • 620 for FHA and VA loans.
  • 620 for conventional loans.

Mortgage credit scores are different from consumer credit scores people get from websites like credit karma.  Issues pertaining to past mortgages carry more weight on a mortgage score than a consumer score.  So your mortgage score may differ significantly from a consumer score given to you by a credit card company or a website.  I’ve had clients with mortgage scores higher than their consumer scores and other clients with scores less than their consumer scores.  You never know for sure until you actually pull the mortgage report.

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We look at scores from all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experion, and Transunion.  We are required to use the borrower’s middle score for loan qualification.  And if there are multiple borrowers, then the lowest middle score is the score we use to qualify the application.  When I pull a report, if the score is less than 620, the client and I will discuss ways that they can improve their score, which may be simply waiting for their score to rise while they pay their bills on time, or contacting a credit counselor who might be able to help improve their score.

Regardless of how good the score is, I will look carefully at additional report details.  Sometimes these details can cause some underwriting questions or challenges, even if the score qualifies.  It’s usuaully best to deal with any credit questions proactively.

Home buyers deserve to know as early as possible whether they can realistically win loan approval.  There’s no need for them to waste their time or a Realtor’s time searching for a home when they cannot qualify for a mortgage.

We will review other key credit report details in future blog posts.  But for now, if you know someone looking to buy a home in Georgia, and this person may have a few “skeletons” in their “credit closet,” (hey Halloween is approaching!), refer them to me.  I’ll take the time to look at all the details, giving them the level of service they truly deserve.


 

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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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The Simplest Loan Around – Part 1

August 4, 2016

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It’s a fun time to be a mortgage lender.  Interest rates are hovering near their historic lows.  They’ve been close to rock bottom for a while, but this Brexit situation has pushed them back to almost the lowest level in history.

Right now, for borrowers with a credit score of 680 or higher, I can quote an interest rate in a range right around 3.25% for a 30 year fixed rate FHA mortgage.  To me that is amazing.

That rate applies to both purchases and refinances.  But it gets even better for refinances….if you have an existing FHA loan that you want to refinance, we can do a “streamline” refinance that is much easier than a standard loan.

So what is this awesome FHA streamline refi program?  Here are the details:

  1. It is only for people with an FHA mortgage.  If you have a conventional mortgage, this does not apply.
  2. It is only for people who are current on their FHA mortgage.  If you are behind on your payments, you don’t qualify.
  3. It is only for people who have no more than one late payment in the last 12 months.  If you have multiple late payments recently, you don’t qualify.
  4. It can only be used if it lowers your monthly payment by 5% or more.  And by monthly payment, we are talking about principal plus interest plus mortgage insurance.  Escrow is not considered.
  5. If you have previously refinanced an FHA mortgage on your home, 210 days must have passed from the date you closed your last refinance before you are eligible.

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So that’s what it takes to qualify, what’s the big deal?  What makes this streamline program so special?

In short, these loans are the fastest, simplest way for FHA mortgage holders to refinance to today’s low, low rates.

The streamline program simplifies home refinancing by waiving the documentation typically required for a mortgage, including income and employment verification, credit score verification, and an appraisal of the home. Homeowners can also possibly use the program to reduce their FHA mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).

I’ll provide more details in my next post, but keep this in mind for now, if you or a friend / family member bought a house before January 2012 or in the second half of 2013 / early 2014, ask yourself or the other person (1) do you have an FHA mortgage and (2) have you refinanced that mortgage?

If their answers are “Yes” and “No,” tell them you know a mortgage lender who might be able to save them thousands of dollars on their home loan, and can make the process really easy.

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Interest Rates lower from Brexit

July 12, 2016

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Interest rates have moved lower since the Brexit vote at the end of June sent stocks crashing, the Pound Sterling down to lows versus the Dollar it hasn’t seen in decades, and all of the politician who led the Brexit campaign quit. But how much have interest rates actually moved since the Brexit vote?

I’ve kept up with interest rates daily since 2009. Since the Brexit vote toward the end of June, interest rates have only improved by 0.125-0.250%. Based on the number of “low interest rate” stories out there, you’d think interest rates would have dropped by at least a half point and have set new all time historic lows since the vote. Why all of the stories? I think it has to do with several factors:

  • yields on treasury bonds have experienced some major change, but treasury bonds don’t impact interest rates. As discussed countless times on this blog (do a search for “MBS” or “mortgage backed security” in the search box at the top right of the main page of this blog), interest rates are impacted by the movement of mortgage backed security bonds. Those prices haven’t changed near as much as the treasury yields.
  • the big move on interest rates was back in January of this year when interest rates dropped by over a half point from the start of the month until the end of the month. Interest rates have been about at this level for most of the year.
  • why the “low rate” stories now? Well, in January, stories were focusing more on the Spring market, home sales increasing, new construction startups increasing, etc. By the time we approach July, the Spring Market is over, there is a natural lull in home sales (everyone goes on vacation in July), and something is needed to fill the 24-hour news cycle. The Brexit vote along with rates improving some since that vote provided the needed stories.
  • since this is a normal “lull” period in the housing market, marketing efforts can now be turned to potential refinances.

Are interest rates low? Yes, absolutely.

Should one consider refinancing? Of course!

But don’t get swept away by it. You want to talk with an experienced mortgage loan officer who can give you the pros and cons of refinancing. For example, this morning I spoke with someone who wanted to refinance using a 15 year mortgage and pay discount points to get the rate into the 2’s. After running the numbers, his “break even” point on the monthly savings versus the closing costs for the new loan increased when he paid discount points to lower the rate! That wasn’t a typo… by paying discount points to get a lower rate, the amount of time needed to break even increased.

In the frenzy to secure a low rate, be sure to ask questions. Work with a mortgage loan officer who watches for trends and doesn’t hop onto the bandwagon of recent events. Someone who will discuss loan options with you instead of just quoting a rate and asking you if you are ready to get started. If the home you are looking to refinance is in the state of Georgia, contact me today. I can help you get going!

Besides… interest rates aren’t at their historic lows yet. That means there is still room for interest rates to improve.

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