As Homebuilder Confidence Stagnates, Deals Abound

Housing Market Index (2000-2010)

Home builder confidence held firm this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders' monthly Housing Market Index. September's reading of 13 equaled a 17-month low.

The HMI is on a 1-100 scale. A value of 50 or better indicates "favorable conditions" for home builders.

Broken down, the Housing Market Index is actually a weighted composite of 3 separate surveys which measures current single-family sales; projected single-family sales; and foot traffic of prospective buyers.

None of the 3 September surveys improved from August:

  • Single-Family Sales : 13 (unchanged from August)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 18 (unchanged from August)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : 9 (from 10 in August)

Builder confidence is lower in 2010 than at any point in recorded history.


For home buyers in Kennesaw , the drop in sentiment creates opportunity. With builders feeling "down", there's a greater likelihood for discounts and free upgrades. It can mean more house for your home buying money.

Plus, with the supply of both new and existing homes elevated, and foreclosures still hitting the market, conditions aren't soon likely to change.

Then, couple all that with all-time low mortgage rates and monthly housing payments look as affordable as ever.

If your plans call for buying a home in the early part of 2011, you may want to consider moving up your time frame. Today's market looks ripe for a good deal.


Case-Shiller Shows Slowing Growth In Home Prices... Two Months Ago

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values June-July 2010

For the 17th straight month, the Case-Shiller Index reports that home values are rising across the United States. As compared to June, July's prices were up by 4 percent.

However, despite the improvement, July's Case-Shiller Index showed weaker as compared to prior months.

  • In June, just 3 cities posted year-to-year reductions in home value. In July, 10 of 20 did.
  • In June, just 1 city posted a month-to-month reduction in home value. In July, 7 of 20 did.

As a spokesperson for Case-Shiller said, values "crept forward" in July. But not that it matters -- the Case-Shiller Index is a better tool for economists than it is for homeowners in Kennesaw. This is for 3 reasons.

First, the Case-Shiller Index is on a 60-day delay but real estate sales are based on prices today. A lot can change in 60 days, and it often does. Therefore, the Case-Shiller Index is a better snapshot of the former market than the current one.

Second, the Case-Shiller Index is geographically-limited. It tracks just 20 cities, ignoring some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country including Houston, Philadelphia, and San Jose. Smaller cities like Tampa are included.

And, lastly, national real estate data remains somewhat useless anyway. All real estate is local, rendering citywide statistics too broad to have any real meaning to an individual. To find out what's happening on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level, you can't look to a national survey -- you have to look to a local real estate agent instead.


New Home Sales Unchanged In August; Market Stabilizing

New Home Supply August 2009 - August 2010Existing Home Sales rebounded last month after a lackluster July. New Home Sales data, by contrast, did not.

After an upward revision to July's data, New Home Sales remained unchanged at 288,000 units in August. It marks the second-lowest number of units sold in a month since 1963, the year government started its record-keeping.

At the current pace of sales, the newly-built home inventory would be depleted in 8.6 months.

The August New Home Sales was weaker-than-expected, but both Wall Street investors and Main Street economists are shrugging it off. The numbers were foreshadowed by weakening housing figures from earlier this summer.

For example:

  1. Building Permits dropped between March and June
  2. Housing Starts dropped between April and July
  3. Homebuilder confidence continues to sag

Together, these three data points suggest that the market for new homes will be soft through at least this month.

With New Home Sales fading and colder months ahead, it may be an opportune time for home buyers in Marietta to look at new construction. Builders are eager to move inventory and the cost of materials remains low.

Buying "new" may never be cheaper -- especially with mortgage rates as low as they are. The 0.750 percent drop in rates since January has shaved $188 off of a $200,000 mortgage's monthly cost. That's $2,250 per year in savings.

As home supplies dwindle and mortgage rates rise, finding "great deals" in new construction will undoubtedly get tougher. Take advantage of today's market conditions, combined with builder pessimism. It may be the right combination at the right time to get that new home for cheap.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 27, 2010

Fed Funds Rate September 2007-September 2010Mortgage markets improved last week as markets digested a bevy of data from the housing sector, plus the scheduled Federal Open Market Committee meeting

In back-and-forth trading, conforming mortgage rates in Georgia bottomed out Wednesday before rising through Friday's afternoon close. Rates still managed to eke out improvement on the week overall.

According to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates remain near their lowest levels of all time.

Despite low rates, however, rate shoppers are finding it a challenge to lock the "best price". This is because Wall Street is conflicted about the future of the U.S. economy and, as a result, mortgage pricing has been extra volatile.

For as much data that points to economic growth, there are numbers that suggest a pullback, too. Traders are undecided in either direction and mortgage pricing reflects it. It's not uncommon for mortgage rates to vary by as much as 3/8 percent in a given week.

This week, without much new data due for release, prepare for even swifter swings in rates. In the absence of "numbers", momentum- and trend-trading should amplify the market's normal drops and spikes.

A sampling of the week's economic data includes Tuesday's Consumer Confidence report and Case-Shiller Index, Thursday's Jobless Claims and Gross Domestic Product data, plus Friday's consumer income and spending figures.

Notably missing from the week's economic calendar is the jobs report which is typically issued on the first Friday each month. The release is delayed a week to October 8.

If you're still floating a mortgage rate or have yet to commit to a refinance, consider that mortgage rates are primed to rise. They've been falling for 22 weeks and when the market turns, it's expected to turn quickly.

Talk to your loan officer about your refinance options while mortgage rates are still low.


Existing Home Sales Rebound In August, Give Hope For Autumn

Existing Home Supply (August 2009 - Augsut 2010)Sales of existing homes in recovered in August, perhaps the result of a post-tax credit normalization.

As compared to July, Existing Home Sales rose 8 percent in August, buoyed by falling interest rates and slow-to-rise home prices. There's lot of "good deals" out there and home buyers in Atlanta are taking advantage.

The housing gains are relative, however. August's total units sold barely crossed 4 million and still trails the average figures of the last few years by close to 1 million units.

Despite that, the August Existing Home Sales report can be considered a strong one. This is for several reasons:

  1. Sales volume increased in August without tax credit or government intervention
  2. Sales growth is not limited by geography. All 4 regions -- Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West -- showed improvement last month.
  3. Repeat buyers are driving the market, representing 48 percent of sales, up from forty-three percent in July.

And, perhaps most important to the housing market market, the number of available home resales dropped by almost one full month last month.  At the current sales pace, the national inventory would be depleted in 11.6 months.

For home buyers, the data presents an interesting opportunity. With average mortgage rates rising from their best levels ever and home affordability cresting in places like Indian Hills , this autumn may represent the turn-around point for the housing market nationwide.

If you're planning to move in early-2011, consider moving up your time frame.


Housing Starts Rise In August, But By Less Than The Headlines Report

Housing starts September 2008 - August 2010The number of single-family Housing Starts rebounded in August, climbing 4 percent from July's 14-month low.

A "Housing Start" is defined as a home on which construction has started and the August increase represents 18,000 single-family units nationwide.

If you only read the headlines, however, you would think the data was stronger. This is because the Housing Starts data is actually a composite of 3 types of homes -- single-family, multi-family, and apartments -- but  the press tends to lump them all three together.

As a sampling, here are a some headlines on the story:

  • US Stock Futures Rise After Housing Starts Surge (WSJ)
  • Housing Starts At 4-Month High, Hint At Stability (Fox)
  • Housing Starts Jump 10.5% In August (Marketwatch)

Now, it's not that the news is wrong, per se, it's just not necessarily relevant.  Few home buyers  in Marietta are buying multi-family homes or entire apartment complexes. Most buy single-family and, for the first time since April, single-family starts are on the rise -- just not by as much as you'd believe from the papers.

Even still, we can't be entirely sure that the August Housing Starts data is accurate anyway.

A footnote in the Department of Commerce report shows that, although single-family starts are said to have increased 4 percent, the data's margin of error exceeds its actual measurement, meaning the data has "zero confidence".

In other words, starts may have dropped in August, but it's something we won't know for sure until revisions are made later this year.


A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (September 21, 2010 Edition)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, in its 7th meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-to-1 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged. 

The Fed Funds Rate remains at a historical low, within a Fed's target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC said that the pace of economic recovery "has slowed" in recent months. Household spending is increasing but remains restrained by high levels of unemployment, falling home values, and restrictive credit.

For the second straight month, the Federal Reserve showed less economic optimism as compared to the prior year's worth of FOMC statements dating back to June 2009. However, the Fed still expects growth to be "modest in the near-term".

This outlook is consistent with recent research showing that the recession is over, and that growth has resumed -- albeit at a slower pace than what was originally expected.

The Fed also highlighted strengths in the economy:

  1. Growth is ongoing on a national level
  2. Inflation levels remain exceedingly low
  3. Business spending is rising

As expected, the Fed re-affirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent "for an extended period".

There were no surprises in the Fed’s statement so, as a result, the mortgage market's reaction to the release has been neutral. Mortgage rates in Georgia are thus far unchanged this afternoon.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for November 2-3, 2010.

The Federal Reserve Meets Today. Should You Lock Your Rate Before It Adjourns?

Comparing 30-year fixed mortgage rate to Fed Funds Rate since 1990The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from its 6th scheduled meeting of the year today, and 7th overall.

Upon adjournment, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will release a formal statement to the market. In it, the Fed is expected to announce "no change" to the Fed Funds Rate.

Currently, the Fed Funds Rate is within a target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.  It's been at this same level since December 2008.

Note that the Feds Funds Rate is not "a mortgage rate" -- nor is it a a consumer rate of any kind. The Fed Funds Rate is a rate that defines the cost of an overnight loan between banks. And, although the Fed Funds Rate has little direct consequence to everyday Kennesaw homeowners, it is the basis for Prime Rate, the interest rate on which most consumer cards are based, plus many business loans, too.

Therefore, because the Fed Funds Rate won't change today, neither will credit card rates.  Mortgage rates, however, are a different story.  Mortgage rates should change today -- regardless of what the Fed does.

It's more about what the Fed says.

In its statement, the Federal Reserve will highlight strengths and weaknesses in the economy, and threats to growth over the next few quarters. Depending on how Wall Street interprets these remarks, mortgage rates may rise or fall.

If the Fed's comments signal better-than-expected growth, bond markets should lose and mortgage rates should rise. Conversely, if the Fed's comments signal worse-than-expected growth, mortgage rates should fall.

If you're actively shopping for a mortgage, it may be prudent to lock your rate ahead of the Fed's announcement today. The Fed adjourns at 2:15 PM ET.  Call your loan officer to lock your rate.

The Fed meets 8 times annually.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 20, 2010

FOMC meets this weekMortgage markets were highly volatile, yet relatively unchanged last week in back-and-forth trading on Wall Street. Global investors are grappling with the state of U.S. economy and unable to discern whether it's growing, or slowing.

As an real-world illustration, the government's August Retail Sales report showed strong growth nationwide. However, in looking at a subset of that same data that accounted for rising gas prices, and excluded automotive-related sales, the results were far more tame.

In other words, despite the winning headlines, there was no clear conclusion in August's Retail Sales.

As another example, consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level since August 2009, it was reported last week. Now, on most days, this statistic would lead mortgage rates lower, but the figures happened to be offset by improving employment report that suggests a looming jobs recovery.

Again, markets got confused and without clear direction, mortgage rates have been dancing.

Last week, conforming rates carved out a range close to 0.375 percent, making it difficult for Georgia rate shoppers to zero-in on pricing. 30-year fixed rates worsened, 15-year fixed held steady, and ARMs improved overall.

This week, expect rates to be equally jumpy.  There's a lot of housing data due for release and the Federal Open Market Committee is meeting.

  • Monday : Homebuilder Confidence Survey
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts, Building Permits, FOMC Meeting
  • Wednesday : FHFA Home Price Index
  • Thursday : Existing Home Sales
  • Friday : New Home Sales

That's one housing-related release per day, and a Federal Reserve meeting to boot. Today's low rates could be vanished by Friday. 

Therefore, if you haven't already, it may be time to call your loan officer for a refinance. Rates could certainly fall further, but they're looking more likely to rise.


Rent A Home Or Buy A Home : The Case For Both Sides

Is it better to rent a Kennesaw home, or to buy one? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. In this balanced, 3-minute joint interview from NBC's The Today Show, you'll hear the case for both sides.

From the pro-renting part of the talk, there's valid points about the economic impact of low credit scores and/or no cash for downpayment, and the ongoing, annual cost of home maintenance -- estimated at 2% of a home's value.  Plus, renters have the ability to "follow a job" to a new town or region whereas a homeowner may be restricted, somewhat.

From the pro-purchase part, however, there's excellent points that were made, too:

  • Mortgage rates are low and each 1% drop to rates equates to a 9% drop to home price
  • Buyers can zero in on a particular area with particular schools or walkability, for example, better than renters
  • A home can a piggybank over the long-term; a place for "forced savings" for families that want it

The segment then closes with 5 of the best cities in which to rent, and 5 of the best cities in which to buy.

Whether buying or renting, don't try to go at it alone. There's lot of resources online, and an email to a local real estate or mortgage pro can set you in the right direction.


Home Defaults Dropped For The 7th Month In A Row In August

Foreclosures per capita, August 2010

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings climbed 4 percent in August from the month prior. A foreclosure filing is defined as default notice, scheduled auction, or bank repossession.

Despite the number of filings surpassing 300,000 for the 18th straight month, RealtyTrac's report shows some bright spots for housing.

  1. The number of default notices served per month fell for the 7th time this year
  2. Foreclosure activity in Nevada, the nation's leading foreclosure state, is down 25% from last August
  3. Foreclosure activity has not materially increased since early-2009, pointing to a stabilization

In addition, each of the 10 leading metro areas for foreclosures posted year-over-year declines for the second month in a row.

But, perhaps, most important, is that mortgage lenders and servicers appear to be managing their REO more effectively, making properties available for sale at a measured pace as opposed to flooding markets with new homes.  As noted by RealtyTrac, the probable reason is "to prevent further erosion of home prices".

For home sellers, it's a welcome development.

Foreclosures have had a hand in falling home values in Georgia and across the country. And, although it's self-serving for banks to meter the release of homes under ownership, everyday homeowners benefit, too.  Fewer homes on the market helps to provide a floor for Marietta housing values.

If you have an interest in buying foreclosed homes, be sure to talk with a real estate agent first. The process of buying a home from a bank is different from buying from "a person". Having the help of a professional should work to your benefit.


Home Affordability Gets A Boost From Weak Back-to-School Retail Receipts

Retail Sales (September 2008 - August 2010)The recent rise in mortgage rates was slowed this week after the government released its Retail Sales report for August.

Prior to Tuesday, mortgage rates had been spiking across Georgia on the resurgent hope for U.S. economic recovery. The sentiment shift was rooted in reports including the Pending Home Sales Index and Initial Jobless Claims, both of which showed surprising strength last week.

August's Retail Sales, though, after removing motor vehicles, auto parts and gasoline sales, failed to maintain the momentum. Its figures were actually in-line with expectations -- it's just that expectations weren't all that high.

Wall Street now wonders whether the weak Back-to-School shopping season will trend forward into the holidays.

The doubt spells good news for mortgage rates and home affordability.

Because Retail Sales is tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, a weak reading tends to drag down stock markets and pump up bonds, and when bonds are in demand, mortgage rates fall.

This is exactly what happened Tuesday. The soft Retail Sales data eased stock markets down, and generated new demand for mortgage bonds. This demand caused bond prices to rise, which, in turn, caused mortgage rates to fall.

Mortgage rates did not cut new lows this week, but they're very, very close.

With mortgage rates at historical lows, it's an excellent time to look at a refinance, or gauge what financing a new home would cost. Low rates like this can't last forever.


The Math Of Choosing A Great Closing Date

Closing dates and rate locksWant a lower mortgage rate on your upcoming Kennesaw home buy? Think about moving up the closing date.

The reason is rooted in "rate locks", a bank's guarantee to honor a specific mortgage rate for a specific, finite period of time. Rate locks allow home buyers to reserve mortgage rates today even though their respective closings may be scheduled as far as a year into the future.

A rate lock is a contract. No matter what the "current market rate" is at the time of closing, the bank will honor the terms of the original rate lock.

It would be like making an agreement to buy Microsoft stock at a specific price 60 days from now. No matter what the price, you already know what you're paying for it.

In this sense, rate locks are predictions about the future and, meanwhile, as we all know, the future can be a challenge to forecast. Lenders know this, too, of course, so it's easy to understand why longer rate locks tend to be more expensive than shorter ones.

The longer the rate lock, the more risk to the bank.

To compensate for this "time risk", therefore, lenders typically step-up pricing for rate lock guarantees as lock period lengthen.

  • 15-day rate lock : The best of all pricing
  • 30-day rate lock : 1/8 percent extra cost versus the 15-day rate lock
  • 45-day rate lock : 1/4 percent extra cost versus the 15-day rate lock
  • 60-day rate lock : 3/8 percent extra cost versus the 15-day rate lock

One percent of "extra cost" is defined as one percent of the borrowed amount.

Now, this incremental price chart is just a rough guideline; exact spreads vary from lender-to-lender. Overall, however, it's fairly close.

That's why it's important to manage your closing date vis-a-vis your mortgage rate. Closing in 30 days versus 31 can save you an eighth-percent in closing costs. Assuming a loan size of $200,000, that's $2,500 saved.

So, when negotiating a closing date on a contract, keep in mind the math of mortgage rate locks. The shorter its length, the more money you might save.



Mortgage bond prices fell last week pushing interest rates considerably higher. The primary cause for the increases was stronger than expected data. Consumer confidence and weekly jobless claims beat estimates solidly and shocked the bond market lower. Overall the Treasury auctions and stronger stocks also pressured mortgage bond prices.
Rates rose by about 1/2 of a discount point for the week.
The retail sales data Tuesday will set the tone for trading this week. If any of the data comes in positive mortgage interest rates may continue the recent climb into higher territory. Expect more volatility, as stocks and bonds are likely to continue their back and forth trading pattern.
Date and Time
Retail Sales
Sept. 14,
8:30 am, et
Up 0.2%
Important. A measure of consumer demand. Weakness may lead to lower mortgage rates.
Business Inventories
Sept .14,
10:00 am, et
Up 0.4%
Low importance. An indication of stored-up capacity. A significantly larger increase may lead to lower rates.
Industrial Production
Sept. 15,
9:15 am, et
Up 0.4%
Important. A measure of manufacturing sector strength. A lower than expected increase may lead to lower rates.
Capacity Utilization
Sept. 15,
9:15 am, et
Important. A figure above 85% is viewed as inflationary. Weakness may lead to lower rates.
Producer Price Index
Sept. 16,
8:30 am, et
Up 0.2%,
Core up 0.2%
Important. An indication of inflationary pressures at the producer level. Decreases may lead to lower rates.
Weekly Jobless Claims
Sept. 16,
8:30 am, et
Important. An indication of employment. An increase in jobless claims may bring lower rates.
Philadelphia Fed Survey
Sept. 16,
10:00 am, et
Moderately important. A survey of business conditions in the Northeast. Weakness may lead to lower rates.
Consumer Price Index
Sept. 17,
8:30 am, et
Up 0.1%,
Core up 0.1%
Important. A measure of inflation at the consumer level. Lower figures may lead to lower rates.
U of Michigan Consumer Sentiment
Sept. 17,
8:30 am, et
Important. An indication of consumers' willingness to spend. Weakness may lead to lower mortgage rates.
The report on business inventories basically gives a broader look at the durable goods, factory orders, and retail sales reports. Not only is this report an important part of the investment component of the GDP, but it also provides additional evidence about the economy in the upcoming months. Changes in business inventories slow as the economy approaches a peak, and rise as the economy approaches the trough of a recession. Therefore the change in business inventories is a leading indicator of GDP. The data for this report, which are published by the Department of Commerce's Census Bureau, comes from a monthly survey of inventories, orders, and manufacturers' shipments, in addition to the merchant wholesalers and retail trade surveys.
Not a great amount of attention is typically paid to this report due to the fact that much of the data is already available and surprises are rare. However, in this environment every piece of data has the potential to cause some volatility. For help see us at Capital City Mortgage Investments or call 770-792-7979

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 13, 2010

Refi Boom endingA shift in Wall Street sentiment caused mortgage markets to worsen last week. There wasn't much in the way of new data, but the numbers that did hit the street helped quell fears of a double-dip recession.

Conforming mortgage rates rose between Monday-Friday for the first time since June, and mortgage-backed securities have now lost ground on six of the last 7 trading days. 

During this period, conforming mortgage rates in Georgia have risen by as much as 0.375 percent. 

Mortgage rates for FHA-insured home loans are higher, too.

Remember, concern for the future of the U.S. economy was a major catalyst for low rates this summer. The drop in rates, which began in April on weaker-than-expected data, accelerated through July and August on record-low home sales and a stalled jobs market.

Lately, though, these concerns are turning to hope.

The growing optimism is putting the Refi Boom at risk. To be sure, it's been a rough two weeks to shop for a mortgage. 

This week may figure no better. In addition to the Retail Sales data, there's key inflation data due both Thursday and Friday, plus, two consumer confidence reports are set for release.  If the overall numbers point to an "improving economy", mortgage rates will likely rise again this week. 

Momentum is moving in that direction, certainly.

If your looking for the right time to lock a rate, now may be the time. Mortgage rates are off their best levels of all-time, but still quite low. There's lot of savings out there for homeowners who qualify.


Georgia Mortgage Jumbo Rates News Updates To lock or Float?

Should I lock or not?

Friday's bond market has opened in negative territory with no economic data to drive trading and a positive open in stocks. The Dow is currently up 30 points and the Nasdaq is up 2 points. The bond market is currently down 13/32, which should push this morning's mortgage rates higher by approximately .250 of a discount point.

There are no relevant reports see my blog at www.im4that.com or events scheduled for today that may affect the bond market or mortgage rates. This leaves the stock markets to influence bond trading and mortgage pricing the remainder of the day. If the stock markets remain near current levels, mortgage rates should follow suit. However, a noticeable improvement in stocks could lead to an upward revision in rates later today.

Yesterday's 30-year Bond auction did not go as well as Wednesday's 10-year Note sale. The lackluster results did lead to some selling in bonds late yesterday. That caused some lenders to revise their rates slightly higher before closing. The 10-year Note sale gave us more of an indication of interest in mortgage-related bonds than the 30-year sale did, so yesterday's lack of demand does not cause a great deal of concern. But, it could indicate that investors may have enough longer-term securities in their portfolio, or at the very least nearing that point. Therefore, we will be a little more cautious heading into the next round of auctions.

Next week brings us the release of a handful of relevant economic reports that are likely to impact mortgage rates. A couple of them are considered to be highly important to the markets and have the potential to cause sizable changes in rates. There is nothing of concern scheduled Monday, but the rest of the week includes a very important measurement of consumer spending (Tuesday) and two key inflation readings later in the week, in addition to a couple of moderately important releases. Look for more details on next week's events in Sunday's weekly preview.

If I were considering financing/refinancing a home here in Georgia, I would.... Lock see us at www.atlrates.com or atlantajumborates.com

Your ARM Is Adjusting Lower. Is There A Downside To Letting It?

Pending ARM adjustment based on LIBOR

When adjustable-rate mortgages are on the verge of adjusting, a common concern among homeowners is that their mortgage rates will adjust higher.

Well, this year, because of the math of how ARMs adjust, homeowners in Atlanta and around the country are seeing that mortgage rates on ARMs can sometimes adjust lower, too.

Adjusting conforming mortgages are adjusting to as low as 3 percent.

As a quick review, here's the timeline for most conforming adjustable-rate mortgages:

  1. There's a "starter period" in which the interest rate remains fixed. This can range from 1-10 years.
  2. There's a rate change after the starter period. It's called the "first adjustment".
  3. Subsequent, annual adjustments follow until the loan "ends". This is usually after Year 30.

The adjustments each year are based on a math formula that's included in the contract with your lender. It's surprisingly basic.  Each year, your new, adjusted mortgage rate is equal to the sum of some constant -- usually 2.25 percent -- and some variable.  The variable is most commonly equal to the 12-month LIBOR.

As a formula, the math looks like this:

(Adjusted Mortgage Rates) = (12-Month LIBOR) + (2.250 Percent)

LIBOR is an acronym standing for London Interbank Offered Rate. It's an interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other -- very similar to our Fed Funds Rate here in the United States. And also like our Fed Funds Rate, LIBOR has been low lately.

As a result, adjusting mortgage rates have been low, too.

In 2009, 5-year ARMs adjusted to 6 percent or higher. Today, ARMs are adjusting to 3.000%.

Based on the math, you may want to let your ARM adjust with the market year. Or, if you plan to keep your home long-term and have concerns about adjustments in 2011 and beyond, it may be a good time to open a new ARM.  The same forces that are driving down LIBOR and helping to keep mortgage rates low overall, too.

Consider talking to your loan officer and making a plan. With mortgage rates as low as they've been in history, most homeowners have options.  Just don't wait too long. LIBOR — and mortgage rates in general — are known to change quickly.


Which Model Is More Accurate : The Case-Shiller Index Or The Home Price Index?

Home Price Index from April 2007 peak

The private-sector Case-Shiller Index reported home values up 5 percent nationwide in June. The government's own Home Price Index, however, reached a different conclusion.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency, month-to-month home values fell 0.3 percent in June, and values are down by 1.7 percent from June 2009.

So, as a home buyer and/or homeowner in Atlanta , by which valuation model should you make your bets?  Perhaps neither. 

This is because both the Case-Shiller Index and the Home Price have inherent methodology flaws, the most glaring of which is their respective sample sets. 

The Case-Shiller sample set, for example, comes from just 20 cities across the country -- and they're not even the 20 most populated cities. Together, the Case-Shiller cities represent just 9 percent of the overall U.S. population

That's hardly representative of the housing stock overall.

By comparison, the Home Price Index tracks home sales everywhere -- every city in every state -- but it specifically excludes certain properties.  The Home Price Index does not track sales of homes for which the financing comes from agencies other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This means that as FHA loans grow in popularity, the pool of Home Price Index-eligible homes is reducing. 

The HPI ignores homes backed by "jumbo" loans, too.

Therefore, the "right" model for home values cannot come from national data at all -- it can only come locally. Neither Case-Shiller nor the government has the tools to get as granular as a neighborhood like BrookStone. A real estate agent in the area does, however.

The best way to get a pulse for what's happening in markets right now is to talk to somebody with good data.


Home Sales Are Back On The Rise After A 2-Month Pullback

Pending Home Sales January 2009-July 2010Just one week after reports of Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales plunging, the housing market is signaling that auturm may fare better than did summer.

The number of homes under contract to sell rose 5 percent in July.

The data comes from the July Pending Home Sales Index, as published by the National Association of Realtors®. By definition, a "pending home sales" is a home that is sold, but not yet closed.

Historically, 80% of such homes close within 60 days which makes the Pending Home Sales Index an excellent, forward-looking indicator for the real estate market.

Indeed, the nationwide drop in home sales this summer was foreshadowed by the Pending Home Sales report.  The index dropped 30 percent in May. Then, two months later in July, it was shown that Existing Home Sales volume dropped 29 percent.

That's a strong correlation.

Now, to be fair, the July Pending Home Sales Index is still relatively low; the second-lowest on record and well below last year's numbers. But, the tick higher last month shows how housing may be stronger than than what the headlines report.

It appears that buyers in Kennesaw took advantage of rising inventory, cheap financing, and stagnant prices, and pushed the market forward. We should expect similarly promising numbers when September's Existing Home Sales data is released.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 7, 2010

Mortgage rates changing quicklyLast week was a roller-coaster ride in the conforming mortgage market.  After opening the week by making new, all-time lows, markets reversed sharply on better-than-expected data in manufacturing and housing, and data from overseas.

Rates rose through Wednesday and Thursday, then Friday's jobs report sent rates jumping.

Last week marked the first time that mortgage rates worsened 3 days in a row since late-April.

The combination of the jobs report not posting as poorly as predicted, and light volume because of Labor Day, pushed rates higher by as much as a quarter-percent in some markets.

On the week, conforming mortgage rates in Georgia were unchanged but, depending on when you locked, there was great disparity.  Tuesday's rates were much better than Friday's.

Meanwhile, this week, with little data due for release, mortgage rates should remain unpredictable, moving as a result of momentum and outside influence. It makes for dangerous times for rate shoppers.  Mortgage rates may fall, but, then again, they might rise, too.

Keep in mind that markets are in the midst of a 19-week rally and rates can't fall forever. Mortgage bonds are likely overbought so when the selling begins, pricing should worsen quickly.  This will cause mortgage rates to spike.

Therefore, if you've been shopping for a mortgage or are just wondering if the time is right to refinance, call your loan officer and work the numbers together. Refinancing won't make sense for everyone, but it may make sense for you.

Mortgage rates are still exceptionally low.



August 2010 Jobs Report Pushes Mortgage Rates Higher

Net Job Gains Sept 2008-August 2010On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases Non-Farm Payrolls data for the month prior. 

The data is more commonly called "the jobs report" and it's a major factor in setting mortgage rates for residents of Georgia and homeowners everywhere. Especially today, considering the economy.

This is because, although it's believed that the recession of 2009 is over, there's emerging talk of new recession starting.

Support for the argument is mixed:

  1. Job growth has been slow, but planned layoffs touch a 10-year low
  2. Consumer confidence is down, but beating expectations
  3. Consumer spending is weak, but not declining

In other words, the economy could go in either direction in the latter half of 2010 and the jobs market may be the key. More working Americans means more paychecks earned, more taxes paid, and more money spent; plus, the confidence to purchase a "big ticket" items such as a home.

Jobs growth can provide tremendous support for housing, too.

Today, though, jobs growth was "fair". According to the government, 54,000 jobs were lost in August, but that reflects the departure of 114,000 Census workers.  The private sector (i.e. non-government jobs), by contrast, added 67,000. 

In addition, net new jobs was revised higher for June and July by a total of 123,000.  That's a good-sized number, too.

Right now, Wall Street is reacting with enthusiasm, bidding up stocks at the expense of bonds -- including mortgage-backed bonds.  This is causing mortgage rates to rise.  Rates should be higher by about 1/8 percent this morning.


August's Fed Minutes Lead Mortgage Rates Higher

FOMC August 2010 MinutesHome affordability took a slight hit this week after the Federal Reserve's release of its August 10 meeting minutes.

The "Fed Minutes" is a lengthy, detailed recap of a Federal Open Market Committee meeting, not unlike the minutes published after a corporate conference, or condo association gathering. The Federal Reserve publishes its meeting minutes 3 weeks after a FOMC get-together.

The minutes are lengthy, too.

At 6,181 words, August's Fed Minutes is thick with data about the economy, its current threats, and its deeper strengths. The minutes also recount the conversations that, ultimately, shape our nation's monetary policy.

It's for this reason that mortgage rates are rising. Wall Street didn't see much from the Fed that warranted otherwise.

Among the Fed's observations from its minutes:

  • On the economy : The recession was deeper than previously believed
  • On jobs : Private employment is expanding slowly
  • On housing : The market was "quite soft" in June

Now, none of this was considered "news", per se. If anything, investors were expecting for harsher words from the Fed; a bleaker outlook for the economy. And, because they didn't get it, monies moved to stocks and mortgage bonds lost.

That caused mortgage rates to rise.

The Fed meets 8 times annually. Its next meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2010.  Until then, mortgage rates should remain low and home affordability should remain high. There will be ups-and-downs from day-to-day, but overall, the market is favorable.


Case-Shiller Posts 16th Straight Month Of Home Price Improvement

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values May-June 2010

According to the Standard & Poors Case-Shiller Index, home values rose 5 percent in June versus the month prior, and 4 percent from a year earlier.  It's the 16th consecutive month in which Case-Shiller reported an increase in home values and the third straight month of outstanding results.

That said, homeowners and home buyers in Atlanta would do well to temper Case-Shiller enthusiasm. The June figures are issued on 60-day delay and, over the last 60 days, housing data has been lackluster at best.

Stories like these highlight a key weakness of the Case-Shiller Index -- it's out of date as soon as it's published. Because of this, the Case-Shiller Index relevance to everyday Americans is muted. People don't buy homes in the "60 days ago" real estate market, after all.

June is ancient real estate history to buyers and sellers in BrookStone.

However, the Case-Shiller Index does have its place. As the most widely-followed, private-sector housing tracker, the index is used to help make policy decisions and to shape Wall Street's expectations of the economy. This means that a strong Case-Shiller reading can cause mortgage rates to rise, and a weak Case-Shiller reading can cause rates to fall.

Tuesday, mortgage rates fell.