What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 31, 2011

Jobs in focus this weekMortgage markets improved this week as positive economic data was overshadowed by geopolitical strife. A flight-to-quality drove buy-side activity in mortgage bond markets, which, in turn, helped conforming rates fall across the state of Georgia.

Last week marks the first time this year that mortgage rates fell on a week-over-week basis, and considering why rates fell, it points to the fragile nature of the global economy.

By all accounts, last week showed that the U.S. economy is in recovery.

  1. Housing data rises to its best levels in 8 months (LA Times)
  2. Consumer sentiment hit a 7-month high (NPR)
  3. Business investment increased 1.4% in December

Furthermore, the Federal Open Market Committee met last week and said that the economy continues to expand (although the pace is slower-than-optimal).

Normally, positive news like this would drive mortgage rates higher, and during the early part of the week, it did. But then, as political problems in Egypt grew larger, international investors began to shift money from their risky assets into the relative safety of the U.S. bond market.

This includes mortgage-backed bonds, of course. The buyer influx pushed up prices and, because bond yields move opposite price, mortgage rates dropped.

The week ended with rates at their lowest levels of the week.

Next week, though, rates could reverse. There's two developing stories rate shoppers should watch.

The first is related to Egypt. In addition to buying mortgage-backed bonds, investors are gambling that oil prices will rise, too. Egypt is the world's 21st largest oil producer and a disruption of its supply could send gas prices soaring. This circumstance would be inflationary and inflation is the enemy of mortgage bonds.

Crude oil jumped 4.3% Friday afternoon. If that continues, mortgage rates should start rising.

The second is tied to jobs. Last month's jobs data was weaker-than-expected on Wall Street and it sparked a mini-rally in mortgage rates to start the year. Jobs are paramount to economic recovery so if this month's figures are lower than the consensus figure of 150,000, expect mortgage rates in Atlanta to fall.  If the number is stronger than 150,000, expect mortgage rates to rise.

The jobs report is released Friday at 8:30 AM ET.


New Home Sales Reach 8-Month High

New Home Supply (Dec 2009 - Dec 2010)Sales of new homes rose sharply in December, posting a 17.5 percent gain from the month prior.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, New Home Sales climbed to 329,000 in December, besting November by close to 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

Last month's reading is an 8-month high for New Home Sales, and the latest in a series of signals that housing is improving in Atlanta and around the country.

Note that December's Existing Homes Sales and Building Permits reports also showed marked gains last month, climbing 12 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Furthermore, an interesting pattern is emerging in the price points of home sales. The highest levels of relative growth are occurring within the "move-up buyer" segments. Entry-level price points are lagging the market, as a whole.

December's New Home Sales data breaks down by price point as follows:

  • Homes under $200,000 : 36% of the market (-9% from November)
  • Homes between $200,000-$299,999 : 32% of the market (+7% from November)
  • Homes between $300,000-$499,999 : 27% of the market (+7% from November)

Luxury homes accounted for less than 5% of the newly-built home market, suggesting that Georgia homeowners are either not "buying new" as frequently, or are choosing to renovate their existing properties instead.

The 2010 housing market finished on a tear, and that momentum is carrying forward into 2011. Expect the spring season to show strongly, putting pressure on home prices to rise.

Coupled with rising mortgage rates, the long-term cost of homeownership is unlikely to be as low as it is today.


A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (January 26, 2011 Edition)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 10-to-0 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC noted that since December's meeting, economic growth is ongoing, but at a pace deemed "insufficient" to make a material impact on the jobs market. In addition, the Fed said household spending "picked up" late last year, although it continues to be held back by joblessness, tight credit and lower housing wealth.

This is similar to the language used in the FOMC's November and December 2010 statements.

Also like its last two statements, the Fed used this month's press release to re-affirm its plan to keep the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent "for an extended period", and to keep its $600 billion bond market support package in place.

And finally, of particular interest to Vinings home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers, for the second straight month, the Federal Open Market Committee's statement contained an entire paragraph detailing the Federal Reserve's dual mandate of managing inflation levels, while fostering maximum employment. 

The Fed acknowledges progress toward this goal, but calls that progress "disappointingly slow". Inflation is too low right now, and joblessness too high.

Over time, the Fed expects both measurements to improve.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC has been positive since the statement's release. Mortgage rates in Atlanta are unchanged, but poised to improve.

The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a 1-day event, March 15, 2011.

The Home Price Index Shows Flat For November

Home Price Index from peak to presentHome values were reported unchanged in November 2010, on average, according to the Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index

We say "on average" because the government's Home Price Index is a data composite for the country. The index doesn't measure citywide changes in places like Marietta , nor does it get granular down to the neighborhood level to measure places like Vinings.

Instead, the Home Price Index groups state data in 9 regions with each regions having as few as 4 states in it, and as many as 8.

Not surprisingly, each of the regions posted different price change figures for the period of October-to-November 2010.

A sampling includes:

  • Values in the Pacific region rose +1.2%
  • Values in the New England region rose +0.3%
  • Values in the Mountain region fell -1.9%

The complete regional list is available at the FHFA website.

That said, none of these numbers are particularly helpful to today's home buyers and sellers and that's because everyday people don't buy and sell homes on the Regional Level. We do it locally and the government's Home Price Index can't capture data at that level.

It's a similar reason to why the Case-Shiller Index is irrelevant to buyers and sellers.

November's Case-Shiller Index showed home values down 1 percent in November, but that conclusion is a composite of just 20 cities nationwide -- and they're not even the 20 largest cities. Philadelphia, Houston and San Jose are conspicuously absent from the Case-Shiller list.

So why are reports like the Home Price and the Case-Shiller Index even published at all? Because, as national indicators, they help governments make policy, businesses make decisions, and banks make guidelines. Entities like that are national and require data that describe the economy as a whole. Home buyers and sellers, by contrast, need it locally.

Since peaking in April 2007, the Home Price Index is off 14.9 percent.


The Fed Meets Today. What It Means To Mortgage Rates.

Fed Funds Rate vs Conforming Fixed Rate (2000-2010)The Federal Open Market Committee begins a 2-day meeting today in Washington D.C. It's the group's first meeting of 2011 -- one of 8 scheduled for the year.

The Fed meets every 45 days, on average. Its last meeting was December 14, 2010.

Rate shoppers and home buyers should make a note. Mortgage rates and home affordability could change dramatically beginning tomorrow afternoon.

Because Wall Street watches FOMC meetings closely, so should you. The meetings provide insight on the future of U.S. monetary policy, as told by the nation's central banker. Investors make trades based on the FOMC's commentary which is one reason why mortgage rates tend to undulate through the hours leading up to the FOMC's adjournment, and the days immediately after.

Wall Street is shifting old bets, and placing new ones.

A terrific example of this is what happened after the Fed's November 3, 2010 meeting.

In its post-meeting press release, the Federal Reserve announced a new, $600 billion, market-bolstering plan dubbed "QE2". Wall Street had widely expected the Fed to create the program, but had underestimated its size.

Starting a $600 billion program sparked fears of a Fed-led inflation run, which, in turn, caused mortgage markets to deteriorate in a hurry. In the 3 days following the program's announcement, mortgage rates spiked to multi-month highs and have not since recovered.

QE2 marked the beginning of the end of the Refi Boom and low rates. Today, conforming rates in Georgia are relatively low as compared to higher, but are much higher than they were prior to the FOMC's November 2010 meeting.

Then, December's FOMC meeting did little to change the direction of rates. We shouldn't expect that January's will, either. After the FOMC's 2:15 PM ET adjournment Wednesday, mortgage rates should resume climbing, as they have done for the past 10 weeks.

If you're shopping for a mortgage rate, therefore, the prudent move is to lock prior to Wednesday's FOMC adjournment because, after once the Fed's outlook is released, it will be too late. 


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 24, 2011

Federal Reserve Meets Jan 25-26 2011Mortgage markets worsened last week in a holiday-shortened trading week.

As the body of U.S. economic data continues to show slow, steady improvement, Wall Street is becoming a net-seller of mortgage-backed bonds. As a result, conforming mortgages rates in Georgia are rising.

This is why conforming and FHA mortgage rates rose last week in Georgia. Existing home supplies plunged to a 2-year low in December, and unemployment claims dropped more than expected, giving hope for the U.S. economy in 2011.

This week, that trend may continue. There's a lot of news set for release.

The biggest story of the week is Federal Open Market Committee's 2-day meeting. Scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the FOMC's meeting is the first of its 8 scheduled meetings this year.

In it, the FOMC is expected to vote the Fed Funds Rate unchanged in its target range near 0.000 percent, but it won't be what the Fed does that's so important to mortgage markets -- it will be what the Fed says. Wall Street will be watching the FOMC's post-meeting press release for clues about the economy, and the central banker's next steps. From what it reads, Wall Street will react.

This week is also heavy on housing data.

Following up on last week's Existing Home Sales and Housing Starts figures, this week features 4 additional releases:

  1. Case-Shiller Index (Tuesday)
  2. Home Price Index (Tuesday)
  3. New Home Sales (Wednesday)
  4. Pending Home Sales (Thursday)

Strength in housing should lead mortgage rates higher as it becomes more clear that the sector is on solid ground.

Since November 3, mortgage rates have been trending higher in Atlanta and across the country. The Refi Boom is over, but low rates remain -- for now. If you've yet to lock a mortgage rate, consider doing it soon. 

Before long, rates won't be so low.


Home Supplies Plummet, Putting Pressure On Prices To Rise

Existing Home Supply 2009-2010Existing Home Sales surged 12 percent last month, closing 2010's housing market with strength. An "existing home" is a home that cannot be categorized as new construction; a resale.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, seasonally-adjusted, annualized Existing Home Sales figures climbed by more than a half-million units in December as compared to November. It's the 3rd straight month of home resale improvement nationwide.

Sales volume is now as high as it's been since May 2010 -- just after the federal home buyer tax credit's expiration.

In addition, the number of months needed to sell the complete, current home inventory at the current pace of sales fell by 1.4 months, tying December for the biggest one-month home supply improvement in 2 years.

It's yet another signal that the housing market is in recovery. Not that this data should surprise anyone. November's Pending Home Sales report told us to expect it two weeks ago.

Broken down by buyer-type, home sales split as follows:

  • First-time home buyers : 33% of all sales
  • Repeat buyers : 47% of all sales
  • Real estate investors : 20% of all sales

Cash buyers represented 29 percent of all transaction, down 2 ticks from November. This may suggest that mortgage guidelines are loosening -- another sign of economic improvement.

So, take note, Kennesaw home buyers. This spring, along with mortgage rates, home values should rise, too. Expect less "bang for your buck" as the housing recovery takes hold here in Vinings and across the nation.

The best deals of the year may be the ones made this month.


Home Builders Slowed By Economy or HIgher RAtes?

National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index (Nov 2009-Dec 2010)Home builder confidence held firm for the second straight month this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
The monthly Housing Market Index registered 16 out of a possible 100. January's reading is three points higher than the 2010 low-point, set in September, and in-line with last year's average reading.
According to the NAHB, the market for newly-built, single family homes remains relatively weak "following a below-expectations finish in 2010". Builders expect a better 2011.
The Housing Market Index dates to 1985. It's a composite of surveys which gauge the builders' perceptions of the new home-buying market.
There are 3 surveys and they ask:
  1. How would you rate market conditions for sales of new homes today?
  2. How would you rate market conditions for sales of new homes 6 months from now?
  3. How would you rate the foot traffic of prospective buyers of new homes?
The answers are then collated and weighted, and used to produce the Housing Market Index.
In January, market conditions for current and future sales were deemed to be flat. Foot traffic is seen as increasing. For home buyers of new homes across Georgia in Cobb Fulton Gwinnett Fayette Forsyth County , this data may foretell of more bidding wars in the months ahead.
More active buyers means more competition for homes. It may also mean fewer concessions from builders as confidence starts rising.
If you're in the market for a newly-built home, watching the Housing Market Index may be sensible. Each builder is different, of course, but as the overall market sentiment falls, buyers can be more likely to get "a deal". That's not the case once confidence is rising.
The HMI is plateaued. If it resumes rising later this year, expect new homes to get more costly.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 18, 2011

Home sales tied to mortgage ratesMortgage markets worsened last week on a turn-around in sentiment across the Eurozone. The sort of "safe haven" buying that had buoyed mortgage bonds since the New Year dissipated, and mortgage rates resumed climbing.

Last week marked the first week since the end of 2010 that mortgage rates have risen, breaking a 2-and-a-half-week rally.

Conforming and FHA mortgages in Georgia increased in rate by roughly 1/8 percent.

Last week was data-sparse so mortgage markets took their cues from Europe -- specifically Portugal and Spain. There have been lingering concerns that the two countries might default on their respective national debts. The development has a similar feel to what transpired in Greece in April of last year, and that may be why markets are reacting in much the same manner.

At the beginning the year, the fear of default in Portugal and Spain was elevated. It drove money managers away from risky assets and toward safer ones, including U.S. mortgage bonds. Last week, however, those fears eased. Money reversed flow and, as a result, mortgage rates rose. 

Truly, this is a global market.

This week, the Eurozone story continues, but there is a lot of U.S. housing data due for release, too.

  • Tuesday : National Association of Homebuilders Housing Market Index
  • Wednesday : Building Permits, Housing Starts
  • Thursday : Existing Home Sales

Housing is considered key to the country's economic recovery, so strength in this week's housing should lead stock markets higher on better expectation for the economy which would, in turn, cause a sell-off in mortgage bonds, driving mortgage rates higher.

Mortgage rates are decidedly higher than their lows of 2010, but have much more room to rise. If you haven't locked your mortgage rate yet, consider taking care of it this week.

Rates have farther to rise than to fall in the medium-term.


Retail Sales Weak In December; Home Affordability Gets A Boost

Retail Sales (2009-2010)Consumers keep spending, the economy keeps growing.

Mortgage rates are easing lower this morning on just-released, slightly worse-than-expected Retail Sales data from December 2010.

Excluding motor vehicles and auto parts, December's sales receipts were $1.5 billion higher from November. Analysts had expected a number north of $2 billion.

Despite falling short of estimates, however, December's reading is the highest in Retail Sales history, surpassing the previous record set in July 2008, set during the recession. In addition, December's strong numbers helped 2010's year-over-year numbers go positive for the first time in 3 years.

Although the data is a mixed bag for Wall Street, home affordability in Kennesaw is improving today.

The link between Retail Sales and home affordability may not be up-front obvious, but in a post-recession economy like ours, it's often tight. Retail Sales is another name for "consumer spending" and consumer spending makes up more that 70% of the U.S. economy.

As spending grows, the economy tends to, too.

Investors recognize this and start chasing "risk". It becomes a boost for the stock market, but those gains are made at the expense of "safe" asset classes which include mortgage-backed bonds. Mortgage-backed bonds are the basis for conforming and FHA mortgage rates so, as bond markets sell off, asset prices fall and rates move up.

Thankfully, rate shoppers will avoid that scenario today -- at least for today. December's Retail Sales results are a factor in the bond market's early-day improvement. Conforming and FHA mortgage rates across the state of Georgia should be lower today.

Despite the good news, if you're shopping for a mortgage, consider locking your rate as soon as possible. Mortgage rates are coming off a 2-week rally and look poised to reverse appear -- especially with a full docket of data due for next week. As mortgage rates rise, purchasing power falls.


Foreclosure Activity Falls For The Second Straight Month, Drops To 30-Month Low

Foreclosure concentration December 2010According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings nationwide dropped for the second straight month in December. After falling 21 percent in November, filings were down by an additional 2 percent in December.

"Foreclosure filing" is a catch-all term, comprising default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions.

Like most months, a small number of states dominated December's national foreclosure figures. 6 states accounted for more than 50 percent of all bank repossessions.

  1. California : 17% of all repossessions
  2. Florida : 11% of all repossessions
  3. Arizona : 6% of all repossessions
  4. Michigan : 6% of all repossessions
  5. Texas : 6% of all repossessions
  6. Nevada : 4% of all repossessions

December's foreclosure filings fell to its lowest levels since June 2008, but we can't read into the report too much just yet. Foreclosure volume continue to be dampened by lawsuits and moratoriums related to controversy surrounding the so-called robo-signers.

Foreclosure activity may have lessened in December anyway, but we can't know for certain. 

Distressed properties are in high demand among home buyers, accounting for one-third of all home sales; typically sold at a steep, 15 percent discount as compared to non-distressed properties.

Buying foreclosures can be a terrific "deal".

That said, buying a foreclosed home is different from buying a non-foreclosed home. Specifically, because you're buying from a bank and not a person, contracts may vary from what's "customary" and negotiations may be drawn-out.

It's one reason why buyers in Kennesaw  -- first-timers and investors alike -- should talk with a real estate agent before writing an offer for a foreclosed property. You can learn a lot from the internet, but when it comes time to actually purchase a home, you'll want an experienced professional on your side.


Comparing Mortgage Rates For Adjustable- And Fixed-Rate Mortgages

Comparing FRM to ARM mortgage rates (January 2010 - January 2011)

For some homeowners, electing to take an adjustable rate mortgage over a fixed rate one can be matter of budgeting. ARMs tend to carry lower mortgage rates and, therefore, lower monthly mortgage payment as compared to a comparable fixed rate loan.

Relative to fixed rate mortgages, current ARM pricing is excellent. Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey puts the 5-year ARM mortgage rate lower than the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate by 1.02 percent.

On a $250,000 home loan, a 1.02 differential yields a payment savings of $149 per month.

ARMs are not for everyone, of course. Over time their rates can change and that can frighten people. An ARM can finish its respective 30-year lifespan with a mortgage rate as much as 6 percentage points higher from where it started. Some homeowners won't like this.

Other homeowners, however, won't mind it. For this group,  the ARM can be a terrific fit. Especially with the huge, relative discount in today's pricing.

A few scenarios that should warrant consideration of a 5-year ARM include homeowners that are:

  1. Buying a new home with the intent to sell within 5 years
  2. Currently financed with a 30-year fixed mortgage with plans to sell within 5 years
  3. Interested in low payments; comfortable with longer-term rate and payment uncertainty

In addition, homeowners with existing ARMs due for adjustment may want to refinance into a new ARM, if only to push the first adjustment date farther into the future.

Before choosing to go with an ARM, speak with your loan officer about how adjustable rate mortgages work, and their near- and long-term risks. Payment savings may be tempting, but with an ARM, payments are permanent.


How To Renegotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates To Something Lower

Credit card debt, left unchecked, can pile up quickly. Especially for debtors making minimum payments.  

According to the Federal Reserve, a credit card balance of $5,000 at 23.99 percent APR won't pay off for 16,127 years. That's one reason why it's important to manage your credit card rates, and renegotiate them whenever possible.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn the tested tactics that can cut a credit card rate, and get monthly payments to a more manageable range. And it's do-it-yourself -- no debt management firms required.

Some of the tips in the video include:

  • Compare your current rate to the rate offered to new customers. Ask the lender for "new customer rate" if it's lower.
  • If your credit score has improved since application, ask for an interest rate more reflective of your current credit score.
  • Be nice to the customer service representative. Kindness helps.

Managing debt is an important part of household budgeting so if you're finding your credit card payments and/or rates too high for your liking, try following the instructions as described in the video. And, above all else, be persistent. The credit card companies won't likely approve your first request. 


Has your Mortgage been Orphaned? Did you pay too much?

Orphaned Mortgages

Over 150,000 people left the mortgage industry in 2007 and 2009.  

Big banks have ZERO motivation to lower your rate or shorten your term.  Sorry to tell you they are either too busy, don't care, or under contract to NOT call you.  That's right, many mortgage servicing companies are under contract to not call you because the investor that really owns the mortgage does not want to lose you and  because mortgage process is so complicated  they just can't lower your rate. Did you ever get a call from them saying  "Let's lower that rate for you"? Consumers with orphaned mortgages are truly on their own in the mortgage world and may never known when the best time to refi.

By contrast, an actively managed mortgage by a true mortgage professional can save the average homeowners two to three thousand dollars on their mortgage transaction. For example in my group we call one a least once per year our customers to do a mortgage checkup or sooner as the market warrants. Owners of orphaned mortgages didn't get calls like this and our core customers received those calls and it didn't cost them a penny! They're paying higher rates and closing costs. They are paying higher like the rest of the country and they did not get better rates or lower payments,
Owners of orphaned mortgages really never get the advice and end up paying the price. 
Mortgage rates and mortgage markets change every day.  It's the homeowners with active mortgage managers that will always have the best rates, payment, and mortgage planning guidance.

Call a professional today.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 10, 2011

Unemployment Rate (2008 - 2010)Mortgage markets gained last week as a combination of safe-haven buying and an improving economic outlook attracted new buyers. Demand for mortgage-backed bonds outweighed supply and conforming and FHA mortgage rates edged lower.

Last week marked the second straight week that mortgage rates fell in and around Georgia. Rates had risen over the previous 7 weeks.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, the national average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.77 percent with an accompanying 0.8 points required.

This week, with no new data due for release, look for last week's two biggest stories -- jobs and debt -- to carry forward. The first such story relates to jobs.

Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report. Consensus estimates were for 150,000 net new jobs created December, with "whisper numbers" pegging the number as high as 250,000. Mortgage rates increased on the chance that the rumors were right. 

It turned out, they were not.

Accounting for revisions to past months' data, December's jobs data was in-line with expectations, resulting in a mortgage rate retreat that lasted all day Friday. That momentum should carry forward into the early part of this week.

The second story is tied to safe-haven buying.

The U.S. mortgage market benefited from growing concerns within the Eurozone that Portugal could default on its debt. The story emerged three weeks ago when Portugal's debt was downgraded. It picked up steam last week after a weak debt offering. It's a similar beginning to what transpired in Greece last spring.

Mindful of their respective risk, worldwide investors chose to shift risk toward safer asset classes which includes, of couse, mortgage-backed bonds. This week, those risks will remain and the flight to quality assets should continue. Mortgage rates will benefit.

Given the likelihood that mortgage rates will fall this week, it may be tempting to let your mortgage rate float. That strategy could prove foolish.

Mortgage rates fell to historic lows in 2010 and sprung higher at the first possible opportunity. Rates remain at ultra-low levels and have lots of room to rise. This week, consider buying on the dip. It may be the last chance you get.


December's Job Report : Good For Home Affordability

Non-Farm Payrolls (Jan 2009-Dec 2010)On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report.

More commonly called "the jobs report", the government's data include raw employment figures and the Unemployment Rate.

The jobs report hit the wires at 8:30 AM ET today. It's making big waves in the mortgage market and may help home affordability for buyers in Marietta this weekend, and would-be refinancers across Georgia.

For this month, and for the rest of 2011, employment data will figure big in mortgage markets.

7 million jobs were lost in 2008 and 2009. Fewer than one million jobs were recovered in 2010. For the economy to fully recover, analysts believe that jobs growth is paramount.

Consider how job creation influences the economy:

  1. More jobs means more income and more spending
  2. More spending means more business growth
  3. More business growth means more job creation

It's a self-reinforcing cycle and, as business grows, the economy expands, pushing stock markets higher. This tends to lead mortgage rates higher, too, because bonds can lose their appeal when stock markets gain.

According to the government, 103,000 jobs were created in December, and October's and November's figures were revised higher by a net 50,000 jobs for a total of 153,000 new jobs created. Economists expected a net gain of 135,000.

The Unemployment rate fell to 9.4, its lowest level since mid-2009.

Wall Street is voting with its dollars right now. Mortgage bonds are improving, pointing to slightly lower mortgage rates today.

The December jobs report was "average", and home affordability is improving.


Loan Costs Increasing April 1, 2011

LLPA rising April 1 2011Starting April 1, 2011, loan-level pricing adjustments are increasing. Most conforming mortgage applicants will face higher loan costs.

Loan-level pricing adjustments are mandatory closing costs. They're assigned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and based on a loan's specific risk to Wall Street investors.

First constructed in April 2009, loan-level pricing adjustment are a means to help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac compensate for "riskier loans" by bolstering their respective balance sheets.

Since the initial roll-out, Fannie and Freddie have amended adjustments five times. The pending April adjustment will be the 6th revision in two years.

No class of conforming borrower is exempt from LLPAs. Each loan delivered to Fannie Mae is subject to a quarter-percent "Adverse Market Delivery Charge". That cost is often absorbed by the lender.

The remaining adjustments are grouped by category:

  1. Credit Score : Lower FICO scores carry bigger adjustments
  2. Property Type : Multi-unit homes carry bigger adjustments
  3. Occupancy : Investment properties carry bigger adjustments
  4. Structure : Loans with subordinate financing may carry bigger adjustments
  5. Equity : Loans will less than 25% equity carry bigger adjustments

LLPAs are cumulative. A borrower that triggers 4 different categories of risk must pay the costs associated with all four traits.

Loan-level pricing adjustments can be expensive -- as much as 3 percent of your loan size in dollar terms.  As an applicant, you can opt to pay these costs as a one-time cash payment at closing, or you can to pay them over time in the form of a higher mortgage rate. 

The loan-level pricing adjustment schedule is public. You can research your personal scenario at the Fannie Mae website. However, you may find the charts confusing. Especially with respect to which route makes the most sense for you -- paying the adjustments as cash, or paying them "in your mortgage rate".

Phone or email your loan officer for help.


The Fed Minutes Keep Mortgage Rates On Hold (For Now)

Fed Minutes December 2010The Federal Reserve released its December 14 meeting minutes Tuesday afternoon. There wasn't much there to disturb mortgage markets, thankfully.

The "Fed Minutes" is an official recap of the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. It's published 8 times annually, 3 weeks after the FOMC adjourns.

The Fed Minutes is similar to the meeting minutes released after a corporate conference or condo association gathering in that they provide additional details about the conversation and debate that occurred between meeting attendees.

The Fed Minutes are a lengthy companion to the Federal Reserve's brief, more well-known, post-meeting press release. But, whereas the press release is measured in paragraphs, the minutes are measured in pages.

Here is some of what the Fed discussed last month:

  • On inflation : Core inflation levels "trend lower"; disinflation risks are low.
  • On housing : The market is still "quite depressed"; demand is "very weak".
  • On stimulus : The Fed will stick to its $600 billion support plan

In response, conforming mortgage rates in Georgia are unchanged today.

The no-change in rates is welcome news for this month's home buyers and other people wanting to get a jump on the "Spring Buying Season". Mortgage rates have been trending higher since November, erasing 7 months of gains in 7 weeks, and rapidly approaching the psychologically-important 5 percent figure.

Currently, Freddie Mac reports the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate as 4.86%.

As compared to November, mortgage rates are higher. As compared to history, however, mortgage rates remain low. If you are still floating a rate, or have otherwise not locked, your opportunity may be ending. Once the economy moves to higher gear, mortgage rates will be among the first of the casualties.

Breaking News Georgia Will you miss your chance to get a new loan up to 125%? Program to end soon

Breaking News Loan up to 125% on the HARP or Home Affordable program set to expire June 2011

H.A.R.P. Home Affordable Program
The Home Affordable Program is designed for homeowners who pay their mortgage on time but are not able to refinance because they have little or no equity in their home. But hurry this program is set to expire and many lenders do not understand the program or are too busy with the REFI boom to help you close your loan.

You must meet the following criteria to qualify for the Home Affordable Program:
  1. Your current loan must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  To find out, contact your current loan servicer or visit: http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/loan_lookup.html

  2. During the last 12 months, all of your mortgage payments must have been made within 30 days of the due date.

  3. Your new loan amount may not exceed 125% of the current appraised value of your home. 
To view rates and obtain a good faith estimate for a Home Affordable refinance with ATLRATES.com.

Frequently Asked Questions
If I have a first and a second mortgage, do I still qualify?
As long as the balance due on the first mortgage is less than 125% of the value of the home, you may qualify.  The lender on the second would have to agree to subordinate their loan to the new first mortgage, thereby remaining in second position.
Can I get cash out to pay off debts?
No.  However, provided the new loan amount will not exceed 125% of the value of the home, you may include all closing costs in the new loan so you don’t have to come out of pocket with any cash.
If I’m delinquent on my mortgage, will I still qualify?
No.  Borrowers who are currently delinquent on their mortgage should contact their current lender/servicer and ask about a loan modification.
Will I need mortgage insurance?
If your existing loan does not have Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), it will not be required as part of your HARP refinance either. If your existing loan has PMI, your HARP refinance will also require it. PMI for this program will only be available through your existing PMI company.
Below are the HARP PMI guidelines of the major PMI companies:
Existing PMI Company Refinance with New Lender Refinance with Existing Lender
(Formerly GEMICO)
Max 105% LTV Max 125% LTV
45% Max DTI Per AUS Approval
New Premium Same Premium
MGIC Max 105% LTV Max 125% LTV
45% Max DTI Per AUS Approval
Same Premium Same Premium
.5% Upfront Fee 
PMI Max 125% LTV Max 125% LTV
Per AUS Approval Per AUS Approval
Same Premium Same Premium
Radian Max 105% LTV Max 125% LTV
45% Max DTI Per AUS Approval
New Premium Same Premium
UGI Not Available Max 125% LTV
   55% Max DTI
   Same Premium
RMIC Max 105% LTV Max 125% LTV
55% Max DTI (41% if Mtg payment increases) No DTI Requirement
New Premium Same Premium

How long will the Home Affordable Program be available?
The program expires on June 30, 2011. Your refinance transaction must be closed and funded on or before that date.


Pending Home Sales Rises To 6-Month High

Pending Home Sales (May 2009 - November 2010)The housing market continues to expand, and surprise.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, November's Pending Home Sales Index gained 3 percent from October. A "pending home sale" is a home under contract but not yet closed. 

The index is now at its highest point since April 2010's federal tax credit contract expiration deadline.

If the tax credit really did "borrow" sales from the summer months, as has been theorized, housing has rebuilt its foundation. 

We know this because, of all the housing data available to Marietta  homeowners and home buyers, the Pending Home Sales Index stands apart as a forward-looking report -- its designed purpose as described in its methodology.

Because 80% of all homes under contract close within 60 days, and a statistically significant share of the rest close within months 3 and 4, the Pending Home Sales Index is an excellent predictor of future Existing Home Sales data.

This is in contrast to the New Home Sales data and Case-Shiller Index, as examples, which both describe the real estate market as it existed two months in the past. The Pending Home Sales Index reports on housing as it exists right now. We should expect January's Existing Home Sales report, therefore, to show marked strength, consistent with a housing market recovery.

The downside of the Pending Home Sales Index is that it's a national report and real estate is not sold nationally -- it's sold locally. To get a feel for your home market and how it's faring, talk to a licensed real estate agent with access to local home sale data. 

If pending sales data is available, so much the better. Forward-looking figures can be more helpful than data that's already old.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 3, 2011

Jobs in focus this weekMortgage markets improved last week during a snow- and holiday-thinned series of sessions on Wall Street. Mortgage bonds improved on year-end profit-taking, mostly, leading conforming mortgage rates in Georgia lower.

Last week marked the first calendar week in which mortgage rates dropped since early-November, a pleasing development for rate shoppers and home buyers. Falling rates means lower monthly mortgage payments.

But don't expect for rates to improve again this week, however. Last week's gains were the result of extremely low trading volume and a close-out of 2010 mortgage bond positions. With markets re-opened for 2011, and Wall Street back at full volume, mortgage rates may resume rising.

There will be a lot of data and information on which for mortgage bonds to trade, too.

The week starts with a growth report from the U.S. manufacturing sector. The Institute for Supply Management's monthly report has shown improvement over 16 straight months, and Monday's report is expected to show the same. Because manufacturing is key in U.S. economy, a stronger-than-expected value could send stock markets higher, and mortgage rates, too.

Then, Tuesday, the Federal Reserve releases the minutes from its December meeting. There won't be policy changes transcribed in the minutes, but Wall Street will scrutinize its pages for clues on the economy. A bullish bias from the Fed will push rates higher. A bearish bias will drag rates lower.

And lastly, Friday, the government will release its Non-Farm Payrolls report for December. This is a major market-mover because of how closely jobs are tied to the economy overall. Plus, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks Friday -- another risk to mortgage rates.

The gravity of this week's economic releases and speeches should make shopping for a mortgage difficult. Stay in close touch with your loan officer about mortgage rates and how they're moving. And if you see a rate you like, lock it.

There's no promise rates will ever go lower.