Mortgage Rates Fall Back Below 4%

Freddie Mac Weekly Mortgage Rates

After a brief run-up two weeks ago, mortgage rates are back below 4 percent. It's good news for home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers of Canton because with lower mortgage rates come lower mortgage payments.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the national, average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell to 3.99 percent this week from last week's 4.08 percent.

Last week had marked the first time since December 2011 that the benchmark rate crossed north of 4 percent -- a span of 16 weeks.

And, it wasn't just rates that got cheaper this week -- closing costs dropped, too.

Freddie Mac's survey showed that the average number of discount points to accompany a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell one-tenth of a percent this week to 0.7, where one discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

As a real-life example, a $200,000 Bridge Mill mortgage with an accompanying 0.7 discount points would be subject to an additional $1,400 one-time closing cost. Last week, that cost was $1,600.

Note, though, that these are average mortgage rates for the nation. On a local level, rates may be higher or lower, and so may the accompanying number of discount points.

For example, in this week's Freddie Mac survey, each U.S. region boasts its own "average rate" :

  • Northeast Region : 4.00% with 0.7 discount points
  • West Region : 3.94% with 0.9 discount points
  • Southeast Region : 4.01% with 0.8 discount points
  • North Central Region : 3.99% with 0.6 discount points
  • Southwest Region : 4.02% with 0.8 discount points

These rates are each well below the average rates of a year ago when the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.86%. 

Low mortgage rates can't last forever so if you've been wondering whether now is a good time to buy a home or refinance one; or whether rising rates will harm your monthly budget, the answer may be yes. A weak economy held mortgage rates low last year. An improving economy should push rates higher this year.

Talk to your loan officer and review your home loan options. Looking ahead to spring and summer, mortgage rates appear poised to rise.


Case-Shiller Shows Uneven Recovery For U.S. Housing

Case-Shiller Home Value Changes

Recent data suggests that the U.S. housing market is in recovery. However, the data also shows this to be an uneven recovery.

According to the monthly S&P/Case-Shiller Index, for example, home values rose in three of 20 tracked markets between December 2011 and January 2012. 17 tracked markets showed home prices still in decline.

It's easy to point to the Case-Shiller Index as evidence that the housing market in Georgia has yet to bottom, but we have to consider the Case-Shiller Index's shortcomings -- specifically in a recovering economy.

For example, the Case-Shiller Index is based on changes in home prices of a single home, through successive sales. This means that to calculate its home price index, the Case-Shiller searches for sales of the same home over a period of time and calculates the difference in contract price. 

This methodology can distort the home price tracker downward during times of weak economy because there is no distinction made for homes sold in foreclosure or as a short sale.

35% of all homes sold in January were "distressed", says the National Association of REALTORS®.

Another distortion in the Case-Shiller Index is that the model neglects all home types that are not of type "single-family residence". This means that multi-unit homes and condominiums are excluded from the Case-Shiller Index model.

In some markets, such as Chicago and New York City, condominiums account for a large percentage of overall sales. 

Lastly, the Case-Shiller Index is published with a "lag", which renders it useless to buyers and sellers of Atlanta in search of real-time, relevant data. The most recent Case-Shiller Index is published with a 60-day delay, and accounts for home purchase contracts written between October and December 2011.

Since October, the U.S. economy has added more than 1 million jobs and the economy has moved into "moderate expansion", according to the Federal Reserve. Data that's two seasons old does little to help us today.

Making sound real estate decisions is about having timely, relevant data at-hand when it's needed. The Case-Shiller Index fails in that respect. It's good for highlighting the U.S. housing market on the whole, as it existed in the past. For real-time market data, though, you'll want to talk with an active real estate agent.


Pending Home Sales Index Remains Strong Into Spring

Pending Home Sales IndexThe housing market took a step back in February, but remains near post-recession highs.

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, February's Pending Home Sales Index slipped 0.5 percent from the month prior, to 96.5.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly report which measures the number of homes under contract to sell, but not yet sold, nationwide.

The index is benchmarked to a value of 100, the average level of home contract activity in 2001, the first year that pending home sales data was analyzed. It also happened to be a year of historically-high levels of home contract activity. Therefore, a Pending Home Sales Index reading of 100 suggests a strong housing market nationwide.

The index has read north of 90 since October 2011.

On a regional basis, February's Pending Home Sales Index varied :

  • Northeast Region: -0.5 percent from January 2012
  • Midwest Region : +5.7 percent from January 2012
  • South Region : -3.3 percent from January 2012
  • West Region : -2.6 percent from January 2012

Mild weather may have helped the Midwest Region last month but even regional data can only tell us so much. Like everything in real estate, housing data must be local to be relevant.

Throughout the South Region, for example, the area in which contract activity fell most on a monthly basis, there are states which performed better than the regional average, and states which performed worse. Furthermore, even within those states, there are some cities which over-performed, and others which underperformed.

It's why we can't put too much stock in national housing news. Buyers don't buy nationally -- they buy locally.

Today's home buyers and sellers in Canton , therefore, should look beyond the national Pending Home Sales Index and into local market drivers. The Pending Home Sales Index can paint a broad picture of the U.S. housing market but for data that matters to you specifically, it's not as widely helpful. 

To get relevant, timely local real estate data, talk to a real estate professional.


New Home Sales Slip In February

New Home SalesSales of "new homes" fell to the lowest levels in four months last month.

According to the Census Bureau's monthly New Home Sales report, 313,000 new homes were sold in February 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, representing a 1.6% drop from the month prior.

A "new home" is a home for which there has been no prior owner nor tenant.

At first glance, the data looks negative for the housing market; a suggestion that the well-publicized housing market recovery may be slowed. However, within February's New Home Sales report are three important counter-statistics worth mentioning.

First, although annualized home sales volume slipped 5,000 units in February, this occurred as the number of homes for sale nationwide remained constant at 150,000. This is the fewest number of new homes for sale since at least 1993 -- the first year that the Census Bureau tracked such data.

A small home supply promotes rising home values when buyer demand is rising and, in February, buyer demand held firm.

A second reason to remain optimistic on housing is that New Home Supply was 5.8 months in February. This means that, at the current pace of sales, the entire new home inventory will be "sold out" in 5.8 months.

Housing experts say that when home supplies fall below 6.0 months, it's bullish for housing.

And, as a third reason to look past the New Home Sales headline figure, last month's reporting Margin of Error was huge.

According to the government, the February New Home Sales data was published with a ±23.9% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales sales volume may have dropped as much as -25.5%, or may have climbed by as much as +22.3%. 

Because the range of possible values includes both positive and negative numbers, the Census Bureau assigned its February data the "zero confidence" label.

It will be several months before February's New Home Sales data is revised. Until then, buyers in Atlanta would do well to take cues from the real estate market-at-large which shows steady, gradual improvement. 

If your 2012 housing plans call for buying new construction, consider using February's results as a window to "make a deal". As the year progresses, great values in housing may be gone for good.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 26, 2012

Housing Starts 2010-2012Mortgage markets carved out a wide range last week, eventually closing slightly worse. Mortgage-backed bonds sold off early in the week on rising investor sentiment. Then, they reversed higher on prepared remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, which tempered Wall Street optimism.

When bonds prices rise, mortgage rates fall.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates in Georgia edged higher on the week, and remain at a 5-month high.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 4.08% and the 15-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.30%. Both loan types require an accompanying 0.8 discount points, plus a full set of closing costs.

1 discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

Last week's conforming mortgage rates represent a sharp increase from the week prior when rates for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.92% and 3.16%, respectively.

If you've been shopping for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate increase added $9.22 to your monthly payment per $100,000 borrowed.

We can't know in what direction mortgage rates will move this week, but we can be certain they'll be volatile. Wall Street is suddenly on edge, unsure of whether the economy is improving as recent data suggests, or if the Federal Reserve is correct in that threats to growth persist.

The week's data schedule is as follows :

  • Monday : Pending Home Sales Index
  • Tuesday : Consumer Confidence; Case-Shiller Home Price Index
  • Wednesday : Durable Goods
  • Thursday : Initial Jobless Claims; GDP
  • Friday : Personal Income and Outlays

In addition, there are 6 Federal Reserve speakers scheduled for the week, including Chairman Bernanke. Expect mortgage rates to change frequently throughout the week as Wall Street wrestles with data and rhetoric.

Although mortgage rates spiked last week, historically, they remain low. If you're nervous that rates may rise more, consider locking something in.


Building Permits On The Rise

Building PermitsThe new construction housing market appears primed for growth this season.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of single-family building permits issued in February rose to 472,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annual basis, marking the highest building permit tally since April 2010 -- the last month of that year's federal home buyer tax credit program.

Building permits are a pre-cursor to new home construction.

In 2011, from the date of permit-issuance to the date of "ground-breaking", an average of 27 calendar days passed. February's data, therefore, is a signal that the market for newly-built homes should be strong this year, an idea supported by the most recent homebuilder confidence survey.

As buyer foot traffic soars, homebuilders expect to make more sales in the next 6 months than at any time since the housing market's collapse. Builder confidence is at a 5-year high.

Last month, however, single-family housing starts slipped.

As compared to January, February's single-family housing starts fell by 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. The 10% drop represents the largest one-month drop since February 2011. It's a statistic that may suggest that this year's results are simply seasonal.

For buyers of new construction, the news is mixed.

Rising permits and builder confidence may mean that Marietta homebuilders will be less willing to negotiate with today's buyer on upgrades and/or home prices. However, as more new home supply is set to come online, excess housing stock could help keep home prices low. 

If you're planning to buy new construction in Georgia this year, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the local home supply, and how the market is currently trending. With mortgage rates low and the summer buying season approaching, you may find some of your best deals of the year available in just the next few weeks.


Existing Home Sales Stay Strong; Spring Season Underway

Existing Home Sales

The market for home resales stays strong.

Despite sparse home inventory, the National Association of REALTORS® reports that 4.59 million existing homes were sold in February on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. An "existing home" is a home that cannot be classified as new construction.

Last month's sales data represents a 9 percent improvement from the year prior.

There are now just 2.43 million homes for sale nationwide -- a 19% reduction versus a year ago. The complete home inventory would "sell out" in 6.4 months at the current sales pace.

Some analysts believe that a 6-month home supply indicates a housing market in balance.

The real estate trade group's report contained other noteworthy statistics, too :

  1. 32 percent of home sales were made to first-time buyers
  2. 33 percent of home sales were made with cash (i.e. no mortgage)
  3. 34 percent of home sales were of foreclosed homes or homes in short sale

In addition, nearly one-third of all home sales "failed" last month, the result of homes not appraising at the purchase price; or, the buyer's inability to secure mortgage financing; or, insurmountable home inspection issues.

Even accounting for last month's high contract failure rate,though,  the Existing Home Sales report still posted its second-highest reading since May 2010. For today's Marietta home buyer, the data may be a "buy signal".

As compared to last fall, home supplies are down and home sales are up. Basic economics tell us that home prices should start to rise shortly -- if they haven't already. After all, the Existing Home Sales data is 30 days old, reporting on February. It's nearly April today.

The good news is that homes remain affordable. With conforming and FHA mortgage rates in the low-4 percent range, home affordability is at its highest in history. Home prices may rise this spring, but at least your mortgage payment should remain low.


Buyer Foot Traffic Through New Construction Up Nearly Threefold Since 2009

HMI 2000-2012

Home builder confidence in the newly-built, single-family housing market remains high.

In March, for the second consecutive month, the National Association of Homebuilders reports the Housing Market Index at 28 -- a doubling of the reading from just 6 months ago and, along with last month, the highest HMI value since June 2007.

When home builder confidence reads 50 or better, it reflects favorable builder conditions in the single-family, new home market. Readings below 50 suggest unfavorable builder conditions.

The HMI itself is a composite reading. It's the result of three separate surveys sent to home builders by the trade association. The NAHB asks builders to report on their current single-family home sales volume; their projected single-family home sales volume for the next 6 months; and, their current buyer "foot traffic".

Approximately 400 surveys are returned each month. The results are compiled into the NAHB Housing Market Index.

In March, home builders provided mixed replies to the survey questions :

  • Current Single-Family Sales : 29 (-1 from February)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 36 (+2 from February)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : 22 (Unchanged from February)

It's noteworthy, despite slowing sales in March, that home builders expect a surge in new home sales over the next 6 months. The reasons for this are several and should be of interest to today's home buyers.

First, the jobs market is heating up. The U.S. economy has added more than 1 net new million jobs over the last 6 months and that is increasing the pool of potential home buyers in Georgia and nationwide. 

Second, the housing market, in general, is improving. Home sales are brisk in many U.S. markets and home supplies are dropping. This creates pressure on home prices to rise.

And, third, low mortgage rates have helped pushed home affordability to all-time highs. More home buyers earning the national median income can afford a median-priced home than at any time in history. 

It's all culminated in a monthly Buyer Foot Traffic reading which, at 22, is nearly triple the foot traffic reading from just three years ago. Home buyers -- in Marietta and everywhere else -- are out in full-force, capitalizing on today's buyer-friendly market.

If you're looking to buy new construction in the second half of 2012, consider moving up your time frame. Market conditions are constantly changing, and may move out of your favor. As builder optimism increases, the price you pay for your new home may increase, too. 


Loans For Underwater Homeowners : HARP 2.0 Now Available

Making Home Affordabie

The new, revamped HARP program is now available in Georgia and   nationwide. It was officially released Saturday, March 17, 2012 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

HARP is an acronym. It stands for Home Affordable Refinance Program. HARP is the conforming mortgage loan product meant for "underwater homeowners". Under the HARP program, homeowners in Canton can get access to today's low mortgage rates despite having little or no equity whatsoever.

HARP is expected to reach up to 6 million U.S. homeowners who would otherwise be unable to refinance.

HARP is not a new program. It was originally launched in 2009. However, the program's first iteration reached fewer than 1 million U.S. households because loan risks were high for banks, and loan costs were high for consumers.

With HARP's re-release -- dubbed HARP 2.0 -- the government removed many of HARP's hurdles.

In order to qualify for HARP, homeowners must first meet 3 qualifying criteria. 

First, their current mortgage must be backed either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Loans backed by the FHA or VA are ineligible, as are loans backed by private entities. This means jumbo loans and most loans from community banks cannot be refinanced via HARP.

  • To check if your loan is Fannie Mae-backed, click here.
  • To check if your loan is Freddie Mac-backed, click here.

The second qualification standard for HARP is that all loans to be refinanced must have been securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009. Mortgages securitized on, or after, June 1, 2009 are HARP-ineligible.

There are no exceptions to this rule.

And, lastly, the third HARP qualification standard is that the existing mortgage must be accompanied by a strong repayment history. Homeowners must have made the last 6 mortgage payments on-time, and may not have had more than one 30-day late within the last 12 months.

If the above three qualifiers are met, HARP applicants in East Cobb will find mortgage guidelines lenient overall :

  • Refinancing into a fixed rate mortgage allows for unlimited loan-to-value
  • The standard 7-year "waiting period" after a foreclosure is waived in full
  • Except in rare cases, home appraisals aren't required for HARP

Furthermore, HARP mortgage rates are on par with non-HARP rates. This means that HARP applicants get access to the same mortgage rates and loan fees as non-HARP applicants. There's no "penalty" for using HARP.

To apply for HARP, check with your loan officer today.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 19, 2012

Fed Funds Rate 2006-2012Mortgage markets worsened last week as the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee suggested economic recovery may be closer than it originally expected, and that inflation may be a near-term economic concern.

Although the FOMC voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged in its current range near 0.000 percent, its published comments sparked a broad-based mortgage bond selloff.

Conforming mortgage rates throughout Georgia rose sharply post-FOMC, climbing by as much as 0.375%.

If you've been shopping for a mortgage rate, the run-up was both untimely and unwelcome.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, for most of the year, conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates had remained within a tight range near 3.90 percent for mortgage applicants willing to pay an accompanying 0.8 discount points.

This week, though, Freddie Mac is expected to report average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates well north of four percent. It would mark the highest level for the benchmark mortgage rate since mid-December of last year.

There will be a lot more for rate shoppers to watch this week, too. There is a slew of housing data set for release and the heavily-anticipated HARP 2.0 Refinance program "goes live" nationwide.

HARP is a government-led refinance program meant to help underwater homeowners refinance their Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages into new loans at today's low rates.

The program was first launched in 2009 and helped roughly one million U.S. homeowners. HARP's newest iteration, though, provides for a more lenient underwriting process that is expected to open the program to an additional 6 million homeowners or more.

Mortgage rates may rise this week as a result of HARP-based loan volume. It may also rise on strength in housing -- there are four data points due for release :

  • Monday : Housing Market Index
  • Tuesday : Housing Starts
  • Wednesday : Existing Home Sales
  • Friday : New Home Sales

As in most weeks, it's less risky to lock a mortgage rate than to float one. Mortgage rates have much room to climb but very little room to fall. If you're not yet locked, talk to your loan officer and make a plan.


Foreclosure Volume Slated To Rise This Spring

Foreclosure increases by state Feb 2012

After a series of months during which foreclosure volume was low, total filings have started to rise again, says RealtyTrac. 

In February, 21 states posted a year-over-year increase in monthly foreclosure filings, according to the national foreclosure-tracking firm. This is nearly twice as many states as compared to December 2011, marking the highest monthly reading since November 2010.

A "foreclosure filing" is defined to include any one of the following foreclosure-related events : (1) The serving of a default notice, (2) A scheduled home auction, or (3) A bank repossession.

Nationally, the number of foreclosure filings fell 2 percent from January. However, it's a trend that may reverse. Foreclosure volume is expected to rise over the next few months.

This is because the $25 billion mortgage servicer settlement provides a framework for servicers to execute necessary foreclosures, from notice-to-auction. Some analysts believe that foreclosure filings were artificially depressed in 2011 because of the absence of such guidance. 

Like all things in real estate, though, foreclosures remain local.

For example, nationally, there was one foreclosure for every 637 housing units. On a state-by-state basis, however, the results looked different.  

  • Nevada : 1 foreclosure for every 278 housing units
  • California : 1 foreclosure for every 283 housing units
  • Arizona : 1 foreclosure for every 312 housing units
  • Georgia : 1 foreclosure for every 331 housing units
  • Florida : 1 foreclosure for every 341 housing units

Even on a city-by-city level, foreclosure concentration varied. Figures from several select cities include : 

  • Atlanta : 1 foreclosure for every 244 housing units
  • Chicago : 1 foreclosure for every 302 housing units
  • New York : 1 foreclosure for every 3,439 housing units
  • Seattle : 1 foreclosure for every 1,229 housing units
  • Washington : 1 foreclosure for every 1,198 housing units

One reason why foreclosure concentration is worth tracking is because homes in various stage of foreclosure are often sold at deep discounts as compared to similar, non-distressed homes. It's no wonder foreclosed homes are in high demand among today's Marietta home buyers. 

However, if you plan to buy a foreclosure in Georgia , be sure to work with an experienced real estate agent. Foreclosed homes are often sold "as-is", and may be defective at best and uninhabitable at worst. It makes good sense to have an advocate on your side to help with contracts and inspections.


Mortgage Rates Climb Sharply After Retail Sales Report

Retail Sales 2010-2012The U.S. economy is expanding, fueled by a renewed consumer optimism and increased consumer spending.

As reported by the Census Bureau, Retail Sales in February, excluding cars and auto parts, rose 1 percent to $335 billion as 11 of 13 retail sectors showed improvement last month.

February markets the 19th time in twenty months that U.S. Retail Sales increased on a month-over-month basis.

Unfortunately, what's good for the economy may be bad for Marietta home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers. Home affordability is expected to worsen as the U.S. economy improves.

The connection between Retail Sales and home affordability is indirect, but noteworthy -- especially given today's broader market conditions.

First, let's talk about affordability.

Last week, the National Association of REALTORS® released its monthly Housing Affordability Index, showing that homes are more affordable to everyday home buyers than at any time in recorded history. For buyers with median earnings buying median-priced homes, monthly payments now comprise just 12.1% of the monthly household income.

The real estate trade group considers 25% to be the benchmark for home affordability. Today's payment levels are less than half of that.

The reasons why today's homes are so affordable are three-fold :

  1. Home prices remain relatively low as compared to peak pricing
  2. Fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgage rates remain near all-time lows
  3. Average earnings are increasing nationwide

Rising Retail Sales, however, can derail the trend. This is because Retail Sales measures consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of the U.S. economy. As the economy expands, the forces that combined to raise home affordability so high begin to wane. 

First, in a recovering economy, mortgage rates tend to rise and, throughout 2012 and 2013, home prices are expected do the same. Second, as average earnings increase, it can spur inflation which is bad for mortgage rates, too. 

Home affordability is at all-time highs today. But, in part because of February's Retail Sales data, we should not expect these levels to last. Mortgage rates are higher by 1/4 percent since the Retail Sales data was released -- roughly $16 per $100,000 borrowed -- and are expected to rise more throughout the spring home purchase season.

Retail Sales are up 6 percent from a year ago.


A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (March 13, 2012)

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

For the fourth consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. It is expected to remain near-zero through 2014, at least.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the the U.S. economy has "expanded moderately" since the FOMC's January 2012 meeting, adding that growth is occurring despite "strains in the global financial markets" that pose "significant downside risks" to long-term outlooks.

The Federal Reserve now expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters and a gradual easing in the national Unemployment Rate.

The Fed also noted that :

  1. The housing sector remains "depressed"
  2. Labor conditions have "improved further"
  3. Household spending has "continued to advance"

With respect to inflation, the Fed said that rising oil and gasoline prices will "push up" inflation temporarily, but not over the long-term.

At its meeting, the Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs. The Fed re-affirmed its intentions to hold the Fed Funds Rate at "exceptionally low" levels through late-2014, and to buy mortgage-backed bonds in the open market.

Immediately following the FOMC's statement, mortgage markets worsened slightly, pressuring mortgage rates higher in and around Atlanta. 

The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for April 24-25, 2012.

The Fed Meets Today : Protecting Your Housing Payment

Comparing the 30-year fixed versus the Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee meets today, its second of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a home buyer or would-be refinancing household in East Cobb , get ready for changing mortgage rates.

The Federal Open Market Committee is the 12-person sub-committee within the Federal Reserve that votes on the nation's monetary policy. Led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the FOMC's most prominent role is as steward for the Fed Funds Rate.

The Fed has said repeatedly that it intends to keep the Fed Funds Rate near 0.000 for an "extended period of time", through 2014 at least.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that Canton mortgage rates will remain low as well. Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Open Market Committee. Mortgage rates are set by Wall Street.

As proof that the Fed Funds Rate is distinct from mortgage rates, consider that, since 2000, the difference between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate has been as wide as 5.25% and as narrow at 0.50%.

If the Fed Funds Rate was tied to mortgage rates, the chart at right would be linear.

That said, the FOMC can influence mortgage rates. 

After its meetings, the FOMC issues a standard press release to the public which reflects the group's overall economic outlook. When the FOMC statement is generally "positive", mortgage rates tend to rise in response. This is because investors often assume more risk in an improving economy and this can harm bond market prices -- including those for mortgage-backed bonds.

Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative in its statement, mortgage rates can improve.

Since the FOMC's last meeting, there has been little about which to be negative with the U.S. economy. Housing and manufacturing are improving; employment is higher; and global markets are regaining their respective footing. The Fed may make note of it. Or, it may not.

Regardless, mortgage rates are expected to move so consider locking your mortgage rate ahead of today's 2:15 PM ET statement.

There too much risk in floating.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : March 12, 2012

FOMC meeting this weekMortgage markets were mostly unchanged last week despite a series of positive developments. In addition to Greece successfully reaching a deal with its private creditors, the U.S. economy turned out strong reports -- most notably with respect to Non-Farm Payrolls.

In February, the U.S. economy added 227,000 new net jobs and the figures from December and January were revised higher by an additional 61,000. It marked the 16th straight month of job gains nationwide.

The Unemployment Rate held unchanged at 8.3%.

Conforming mortgage rates in Georgia improved slightly last week and mortgage rates continue to hover near all-time lows.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage nationwide is now 3.88% for Marietta mortgage applicants willing to pay 0.8 discount points and a full set of closing costs.

1 discount is equal to 1 percent of your loan size.

Freddie Mac also reported the 15-year fixed rate mortgage at its lowest level in history. The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.13% with an accompanying 0.8 discount points. This is more a full percent lower as compared to March 2011.

This week's big event is the Federal Open Market Committee's second scheduled meeting of the year. Whenever the FOMC meets, mortgage rates can change in a hurry.

The FOMC is a subcommittee within the Federal Reserve, the U.S. government's monetary-policy making group. Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has held its benchmark Fed Funds Rate near 0.000%. It's not expected to raise that rate Tuesday. However, just because the Fed Funds Rate won't change, that doesn't mean mortgage rates won't.

This is because the Fed doesn't set mortgage rates, but it does influence them. Market will read the Fed's post-FOMC press release Tuesday for hints of new policy or economic growth. If the statement shows more optimism for the economy than expected, mortgage rates are expected to rise. 

Conversely, if the Fed shows pessimism for the U.S. economy, rates are expected to fall.

Other economic events this week include the releases of Retail Sales, Producer Price Index, and Consumer Price Index; plus three high-profile treasury auctions.


FHA Drops Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium To 0.01% For Qualified Borrowers

FHA MIP scheduleThe FHA is making more changes to its flagship FHA Streamline Refinance program.

Beginning mid-June 2012, certain current, FHA-backed homeowners will be able to refinance their existing FHA mortgage into a new one, without having to pay the government-backed group's new, costly mortgage insurance premium schedule.

Earlier this week, the FHA rolled out its new MIP schedule.

Beginning April 9, 2012, new FHA mortgages are subject to a 1.75% upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) and an annual mortgage insurance premium of up to 1.25% for loan sizes up to, and including, $625,500; or 1.60% for loan sizes exceeding $625,500.

Upfront MIP is typically added to the loan size as a lump sum. Annual MIP is paid via 12 monthly installments. Both add to the long-term costs of homeownership.

However, the FHA's new MIP schedules will not apply to all FHA-backed homeowners equally. Homeowners whose FHA mortgages were endorsed prior to June 1, 2009 will benefit from a different, less costly MIP schedule.

For these homeowners in search of a streamline, the MIP schedule is as follows :

  • Upfront MIP : 0.01% of the loan size
  • Annual MIP : 0.55% of the loan size, with no adjuster for loan sizes over $625,500

The new schedule is detailed in FHA Mortgagee Letter 12-04 and it lowers the cost of FHA Streamline Refinancing for long-time, FHA-backed households in Georgia and nationwide to almost nothing.

As a real-life example, an FHA-backed homeowner whose $100,000 mortgage dates to 2008 could refinance via the FHA Streamline Refinance program and pay just $10 in upfront MIP, with a corresponding annual MIP payment of just $550, or $45.83 monthly. 

By comparison, every other FHA-backed homeowner with a $100,000 mortgage pays $1,750 in UFMIP and as much as $1,600 in annual MIP.

The new streamline refinance MIP schedule is in effect for FHA mortgage applications with case numbers assigned on, or after, June 11, 2012. It is not available for loan applications made prior to that date.

There are lots of dates and deadlines in the FHA's new streamline program. If you're too early -- or too late --  you could miss your optimal refinance window. Talk with your loan officer, therefore, and put a plan in place. You'll be glad to be prepared.  


Mortgage Rates Expected To Rise On A Strong Job Report

Net New Jobs Feb 2010-Feb 2012With home affordability at an all-time high, buoyed by the lowest mortgage rates ever, it's been a terrific time to buy or refinance a home using a mortgage.

The good times may not last, though, so today marks an ideal time to lock a mortgage rate. Friday brings risk. Here's why.

Since 2010, weak economic conditions have been a primary catalyst for low mortgage rates in Georgia. Over the last 12 months, though, manufacturing output has been rising, consumer spending has been climbing, and business investment has increasing.

In other words, the economy is improving. However, it's the jobs market that's believed to be the economic recovery keystone. When jobs come back, analysts say, so does the economy.

Assuming that's true, a recovery may already be well underway.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. jobs market has grown for 16 straight months now, adding 2.5 million net new jobs along the way. It's one reason why the February jobs report matters so much to housing. 

Rate shoppers would do well to pay attention.

Friday, at 8:30 AM ET, the government will release its Non-Farm Payrolls report for February. Wall Street expects the report to show 210,000 new jobs were created in February, a figure slightly higher than the rolling, 6-month average for job growth. This would be a positive economic indicator.

If the analysts are correct, mortgage rates are likely to rise on the news, harming home affordability.

Furthermore, affordability could be harmed by a lot if the number of net new jobs created exceeds the 210,000 tally expected. It's not a far-fetched scenario. Wall Street's "whispers" put the actual jobs figure somewhere between 250,000-300,000. A reading lije this would cause mortgage rates to spike and would add money to a prospective monthly mortgage payment.

If the idea of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, consider taking your nerves out of the equation. Call your loan officer today. Lock your rate ahead of Friday's Non-Farm Payrolls release.


Are You Wasting $471 Per Month On Your Mortgage?

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, for 13 straight weeks, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage has held below 4.000% for mortgage applicants willing to pay up to 0.8 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

These are the lowest mortgage rates in history and now -- with a bevy of loan programs for the nation's 11 million "underwater homeowners" including HARP, the FHA Streamline Refinance, and the VA IRRRL -- millions of U.S. homeowners can exploit the current mortgage rate environment.

In this 4-minute clip from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn about today's mortgage market and your refinancing opportunities in Georgia.

The video begins by telling us that 14 million credit-worthy Americans have yet to refinance their respective mortgages, and are leaving an average of $471 in "wasted savings" on the table each month which adds up to more than $5,600 annually.

That's a big number.

Some of the video's other key points include :

  • Refinancing is "worth the hassle" when mortgage rates are as low as they are today
  • The best rates are reserved for homeowners with the highest credit scores
  • Comparison shop -- your current mortgage lender may not offer you the best rates

Furthermore, the video reveals the characteristics of the homeowner type most likely to benefit from a refinance. These traits include having with 20% equity in the home; have plans to live in the home for at least the next 36 months; carrying a current mortgage rate of 5 percent or higher.

It should also be added that, with a zero-closing-cost or low-closing-cost mortgage, even a small reduction in your mortgage rate can make a refinance worthwhile.

Mortgage rates are low but can't stay low forever. If you haven't participated in the Refi Boom, talk with a loan officer and review your mortgage options. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per month with just modest closing costs.