Posts Tagged ‘record low 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!!

Is It Time to Refinance An FHA Mortgage?

October 11, 2019

As discussed previously, using an FHA loan to buy a home makes sense for home buyers with relatively low credit scores and limited down payment funds. FHA loans offer very attractive pricing for these home buyers.

Interest rates have now fallen to their lowest level in three years, so it may be time for current FHA mortgage holders to consider a conventional mortgage refinance. The interest rate savings may not be huge, but changing from FHA mortgage insurance to private mortgage insurance could bring significant financial benefits.

I’m working with a couple now (we’ll call them Jack and Diane) who bought their home in 2017.  At that time, their qualifying credit score was in the mid-600’s and they had just enough cash for the FHA minimum down payment.  This was an ideal scenario for an FHA mortgage.

Fast forward to 2019 – their credit scores have increased and home appreciation in their neighborhood has given them more equity.  A conventional loan now makes sense for their updated situation.  They can refinance to a new interest rate that is just 0.25% less than their current rate.  Normally such a small monthly savings, by itself, does not justify the cost of refinancing.

In addition to the interest rate savings, they will also save money every month with lower mortgage insurance payments.  Switching from their FHA loan to a conventional loan will lower the mortgage insurance monthly premiums by about $120.  Their total monthly savings equal $160, and their refinance has a break-even point of just over two years.  Considering the interest rate savings plus the mortgage insurance savings makes their refinance worthwhile.

An added benefit is that their new private mortgage insurance will cancel in a few years (unlike the FHA insurance which is permanent), increasing their monthly savings to about $200. So, Jack and Diane will realize this bonus savings in just a few years.

Ultimately, home buyers who used an FHA loan two or three years ago may reap big rewards from a conventional refinance now, assuming their property value has increased.

Ron moved into your neighborhood in the last three years or so. At the neighborhood Halloween party, ask Ron if he has heard of an FHA mortgage. If he replies, “Yes, that’s the type of loan I have,” ask him if he would like to lower his monthly payment.  Then connect Ron with me.  We will quickly determine whether moving to a conventional mortgage can help Ron financially.

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.

 

Home Sales Sentiment on the Rise

May 1, 2019

Lower than expected mortgage interest rates in the first four months of 2019 have helped drive Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) to its highest level since June 2018.  Economists and experts have predicted higher mortgage rates for the last few years.  Rates trended higher in 2018 until the stock market volatility happened in November.  Then interest rates declined to below 4.5% and have stayed there for the last few months.  Lower interest rates occurring when potential home buyers expected higher rates translates to great news for home buyers.

HPSI jumped 5.5 points in March to the highest level since last June.  Survey responses considering now a “good time to buy” rose 7% while responses considering now a “good time to sell” rose 13%.  And the study shows that more consumers expect interest rates to decrease further.

Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae stated, “The results further corroborate the positive effect of falling mortgage rates on affordability, which we expect will help support a rebound in home sales.”  Duncan further noted, “job confidence…also continues to support housing sentiment, while income growth perceptions firmed from both prior month and year-ago levels, potentially supporting an uptick in housing demand.”  Ultimately, lower interest rates, job confidence, and growing income expectations are fueling the current housing market.

Personally, I am seeing more interested buyers and homes for sale than I have seen since 2016.  That is a great thing.  Ultimately, with the lower rates and positive overall economic news, now is a great time to buy or sell a home.

Do you have a friend who complains about high rent and an inattentive landlord?  Tell her that now is a great time to fire her landlord and start building equity in her own home.  Then have her call me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will deliver outstanding mortgage experience along with these great low mortgage rates.

 

 

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.

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.