30-Year Mortgage Rates Make New Lows, But Look Ready To Spike

Freddie Mac mortgage rates (January - July 2010)

No doubt you've heard that mortgage rates are low. They're lower than they've ever been in history.  The news is everywhere.

Just check out some of these headlines from the last 24 hours:

  • Mortgage rates set new lows for the 6th straight week (Reuters)
  • Mortgage rates fall again; 30-year fixed at 4.54% (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mortgage rates hit another low : 4.54% (NPR)

Fixed mortgage rates are now down more than 1/2 percent from the start of the year, and 3/4 percent from just 1 year ago. The drop has dramatically improved home affordability for home buyers in Marietta while creating refinance opportunities for existing homeowners.

From a payment perspective, a conforming, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now cheaper by $41.94 per month per $100,000 borrowed versus July 2009.

A homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage, therefore, is saving $45,295.20 over 30 years.

Low mortgage rates rarely last long and rates appear to have troughed. After a big downhill between April and July, they're now flat. This could mean rates have finished falling, or that they're gearing up for another drop lower. Either way, if you haven't talked to your real estate agent about home affordability, or your loan officer about refinancing, it may be time to make that call.

If today's market marks the end of low rates, rates are expected to rise quickly.


Falling Consumer Confidence Helps Drag Mortgage Rates Lower. For Now.

Consumer Confidence Index July 2008-July 2010For the second consecutive month, U.S. consumer confidence is plunging. July's official reading is its lowest since July of last year and the figures run in stark contrast to just two months ago, when the index touched a multi-year high.

According to The Conference Board, July's figures are reflective of a more pessimistic consumer; one concerned about "business conditions and the labor market".

Falling confidence numbers are presumed to be poor for the economy. For homeowner and home buyers in Kennesaw , however, they can create opportunity.  Low confidence can influence the mortgage market in a positive manner, driving mortgage rates down.

Mortgage rates are already at their lowest levels of all-time.

The link between consumer confidence and everyday mortgage rates roots in consumer spending.

Consumer spending accounts for close to 70% of the overall U.S. economy so, the thought goes that, a less confident consumer is less likely to spend money, thereby retarding economic growth. This harms the stock markets and drives cash to bonds, including mortgage-backed bonds.

More bond demand leads bond prices to rise which, in turn, pushes mortgage rates lower.

The other side of lagging confidence is that Americans may be less likely to take new financial risks when they're feeling unsure, including buying a new home. This can then drag on the housing market, negatively impacting home prices across Georgia.

Falling home values can help buyers, harm sellers, and stymie would-be refinancers.

It's tough to predict how consumer confidence data will work its way through the economy, but in the near-term, it appears to be helping mortgage rates stay low. If you're floating a mortgage rate with your lender, or contemplating a refinance, the time may be right to lock in a rate.

Low rates can't last forever.


Case-Shiller Shows Home Price Improvement In 95% Of Cities

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values April-May 2010

Standard & Poors released its Case-Shiller Index Tuesday. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, between April and May 2010, home prices rose in 19 of Case-Shiller's 20 tracked markets.  It's the second straight month of strong Case-Shiller findings.

Also, May's numbers are a mirror-image of February's. In February, 19 of 20 markets lost value.

In its press release, the Case-Shiller staff resisted calling May's data proof of a housing recovery, noting that home values remain flat as compared to October of last year. However, there are some noteworthy numbers in the Case-Shiller report.

  1. 13 of the 20 tracked cities are showing home price improvement year-over-year
  2. Foreclosure posterchlld San Diego has now shown 13 straight months of improvement
  3. San Diego, San Francisco and Minneapolis are showing double-digit annual growth

These are all good signs for the housing market, but the Case-Shiller Index is not without its flaws. Most notably, the data is limited to just 20 cities nationwide -- and they're not even the 20 largest ones

Cities like Houston, Philadelphia, and San Jose are excluded from Case-Shiller, while cities like Tampa (#54) are not.

Another Case-Shiller flaw is that it reports on a 2-month delay.

Therefore, today is several days from the start of August but we're now reflecting on data from May. Given the speed at which the Kennesaw real estate market can change, May's data is almost ancient.  Today's values may be higher or lower than what Case-Shiller reports.

For home buyers, reports like the Case-Shiller Index may not be useful in making a "Buy or Not Buy" decision, but can aid in watching longer-term trends in housing.  For real-time data, talk to a real estate agent with access to local figures instead.


New Homes Sales Gain in June, But Gains Are Relative

New Home Supply June 2009 - June 2010

After a down month in May, the sales of newly-built homes appears back on track.

As published by the Census Bureau, June's New Home Sales report showed:

  1. A 24 percent sales volume increase from the month prior
  2. A 2-month drop in the supply of newly-built home

There are now just 210,000 new homes for sale nationwide.

June's data is a major improvement over May, but it's possible that the true "new home market" may be softer than the statistics suggest.  This is for several reasons.

First, we're comparing June's sales data to the worst month in New Home Sales history.

In May, sales of new homes totaled just 267,000 units nationwide. That's one-quarter fewer sales than in the previous worst month in New Home Sales history. May's sales levels were awful by any measure but June's improvement to 330,000 units remains second-worst sales levels ever posted.

Second, although much improved, June's new home supply of 7.6 months is elevated versus the historical norm near 6.0 months.  The last year has averaged 7.7 months.

For buyers of new homes in Atlanta , this combination of low sales volume and higher-than-normal inventory may be a positive.  It's the main reason why homebuilder confidence is reeling and the downturn has opened some doors for big discounts and deals. Free upgrades and closing cost credits can make a well-priced home even more attractive.

Plus, with mortgage rates at all-time lows and expected to rise, home affordability is may never be better.


Atlanta Georgia Mortgage Jumbo Rates News Updates

Monday's bond market has opened flat despite stronger than expected economic data and stock gains. The stock markets are starting the week in positive ground with the Dow up 60 points and the Nasdaq up 13 points. The bond market is currently unchanged from Friday's level, but we will probably see a slight increase in this morning's mortgage rates as a result of weakness late Friday.

June's New Home Sales was today's only relevant economic news posted this morning. The Commerce Department said late this morning that sales of newly constructed homes rose last month by more than analysts had expected. However, this data is not important enough to cause noticeable movement in the markets or mortgage pricing.

The rest of the week brings us six more economic reports and a couple of Treasury auctions that may influence mortgage rates. Today's data was one of the least important of the week and there is no relevant data being posted Thursday. This mea ns that we have six relevant reports for the markets to digest over only three days, which should translate into an active week for mortgage rates.

The Conference Board will post their Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) for July late tomorrow morning. This index measures consumer sentiment, giving us an idea of consumer willingness to spend. If consumers are confident in their own financial situations, they are more apt to make large purchases in the near future. This is important because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy. If the CCI reading is weaker than expected, meaning that consumers were less confident than thought, we may see bond prices rise and mortgage rates drop Tuesday. Current forecasts are calling for a reading of 51.0, which would be a lower reading than June's and indicate consumers are becoming less comfortable with their finances.

Overall, I am expecting a fairly active week in the mortgage market. With several im portant economic reports on tap, we will likely see noticeable movement in mortgage rates more than one day. The most important report of the week is Friday's preliminary GDP reading, making it one of the most important days of the week. But it is difficult to say which day we can expect to see the most movement in rates as several of releases and scheduled events have the potential to influence mortgage rates.

If I were considering financing/refinancing a home, I would.... Lock

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 26, 2010

Existing Home Sales June 2009-June 2010Mortgage markets worsened last week for the first time in 6 weeks last week. Investors were pleased with corporate earnings reports and the European bank stress tests results.  Stocks gained on the news, and bonds lost.

Mortgage rates rose last week, but only slightly. Rate are still hovering near their lowest levels of all-time.

Of the bigger stories last week was Existing Home Sales. As reported by the National Association of Realtors®, sales volume was down in June and home supplies were up. But figures were a bit better than expected, giving some hope for housing.

Notably, the number of move-up buyers outnumbers first-timers and the national median home price rose, suggesting that mid-to-upper home prices are getting some support.

This week, the market gets additional two pieces of housing data to add to the mix:

  1. New Homes Sales (Monday)
  2. Case-Shiller Index (Tuesday)

Both will have an impact on mortgage rates. In general, better-than-expected data should cause rates to rise in Georgia ; worse-than-expected data should cause rates to fall.

Also this week, there's two consumer confidence reports, the Fed's Beige Book, and late-in-the-week inflationary data.  Mortgage markets should remain volatile with so much news headed down the pipe.

It's too soon to declare the current 3-month rally over, but it's been 3 weeks since rates dipped. This can be a signal that mortgage rates have finally bottomed and that it's time to lock your rate.

If you're floating a mortgage rate, or thinking about a refinance, it's time to get locked in. Rates may drop this week, but then again, maybe they won't.  There's little sense gambling on a bet as big as a mortgage.


TransUnion Credit Dispute by Phone

TransUnion Personal: Credit Dispute by Phone: "Phone
customer service representatives are available to assist you with the dispute process. If you have a recent copy of your TransUnion credit report in which you believe there is an inaccuracy, simply call toll-free at 1-800-916-8800.
Customer service representative are available to assist you Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. ET, excluding major holidays.
What you need
Before you place your call, make sure you have all of the necessary information on hand. A representative will ask you to provide the following details:
Your TransUnion file number, if you already have a copy of your TransUnion Credit Report
Social Security number
Date of birth
Current address
Company name of the disputed item (as listed on your credit report)
Account number of the disputed item (as listed on your credit report)
Reason for your dispute (such as, it is not your account, or you have paid the debt)
Any corrections to your personal information (address, phone number, etc.)"

Fix those credit reports!!!

Existing Home Sales Drop In June But Hint At Higher Price Tier Support

Existing Home Supply (June 2009 - June 2010)Consistent with most post-home buyer tax credit housing news, the National Association of Realtors® says Existing Home Sales eased lower last month.

An "existing home" is a home that cannot be considered new construction.

The 5 percent drop in sales from May to June was expected, but a closer look at the month's data reveals some interesting trends.

First, repeat buyers accounted for 44 percent of home resales in June, up from 40 percent in May. That's a healthy increase for just 4 weeks' time and the tax credit is a likely catalyst. First-timer buyers bought starter homes owned by former first-timers, who were then free to "move up" to larger, more expensive property.

Housing markets can be trickle-up and, not coincidentally, the jumbo/luxury housing market is now in the midst of rebound.

Second, June's "distressed sales" accounted for 32 percent of all home resales, up from 31 percent in May.

A figure like this hints at the large role foreclosures continue to play in a Kennesaw home buyer's home search strategy.  And why not? The National Association of Realtors® suggests that distressed homes are sold at a 15 percent discount.

Lastly, take note that home inventories are rising. June's 8.9 months of supply is the highest in 10 months. Excess supply leads home prices lower, all things equal.

Overall, the Existing Home Sales data from June is a mixed bag. There's support for the middle- and upper-price tiers, but a growing overhang of supply. The market looks favorable for buyers given low mortgage rates and strong negotiation leverage.


Yes, You Can Still Get A Mortgage If You're Pregnant

The New York Times ran an important story this week concerning pregnancy and mortgage approvals. Titled "Need a Mortgage? Don't Get Pregnant", the article discussed the difficulties that expecting and recently-expanded families are having with their mortgage financing.

NBC's The Today Show picked up the story as well, as shown in the 3-minute clip above.

The crux of the issue is that maternity/paternity leave often leads to a change in household income and mortgage lenders will no longer assume one or both parents will go back to work full-time.  The loss of income can raise a household's debt-to-income ratio to unlendable levels.

Now, your loan officer cannot ask you about a pregnancy; such questions would be in violation of Equal Credit Opportunity Act. But he can ask if whether you expect your future employment and income situation to change. This would be a perfect time to broach the topic. And you should. If you're found to have withheld employment and income information from your lender at a later date, it could result in an immediate loan denial plus a loss of earnest monies paid.

Across both pieces, though, the prevailing message is this: Families concurrently planning to (1) have a baby and (2) buy a home should be up-front and forthcoming with their loan officers. Financing is often still available for families expecting an addition -- there's just some extra paperwork though which to work.

Be prepared for that paperwork and you're more likely to get your loan.


Housing Starts Ease 0.7 Percent In June -- 7x Better Than The Headline Data

Housing starts July 2008 - June 2010

Single-family Housing Starts eased lower last month, falling by 0.7 percent from May, or 3,000 units nationwide.

A "housing start" is a home on which construction has started.

June's Housing Starts data is somewhat soft and may partially explain why home builder confidence dropped to its lowest level since April 2009, but for buyers and sellers in Marietta , the Housing Starts report is not nearly as bad as headlines say.

This is because when the press reports on Housing Starts, it doesn't single out single-family homes. The press lumps every type of home into a single, giant reading. As a result, news outlets are reporting Housing Starts down 5 percent -- a somewhat misleading figure.

The 5 percent figure is actually a combination of 3 separate housing types:

  1. Single-Family Housing Starts
  2. Multi-Unit Housing Starts (2-4 Units)
  3. Apartment Building Housing Starts (5 or more units)

But, single-family homes are what most Americans purchase. This is why the single-family starts data is more relevant than the combined figure commonly reported by the press. 2-4 units and apartment buildings are a different realm of buyer.

That said, though, we can't even be sure that June's Single-Family Housing Starts report is accurate. As noted in the Department of Commerce's press release, the data's margin of error is 10.7 percent which means the reported results are of "no confidence".

In other words, there is no statistical evidence to prove the actual change was different from zero.

If Housing Starts did, in fact, drop in June, it will help to reduce the Indian Hills housing inventory, which will provide support for local home values. For home sellers, this could be good news. Fewer homes for sale means less competition for buyers.


Sagging Homebuilder Confidence Opens The Door For Good Deals

NAHB Housing Market Index July 2008-2010Builder confidence in the housing market slipped this month, according to the National Association of Homebuilders' monthly Housing Market Index.

The Housing Market Index is actually a weighted composite of 3 separate surveys. One measures current single-family sales; one measures projected single-family sales; and one measures traffic of prospective buyers.

All three surveys were down in July:

  • Single-Family Sales : From 17 (June) to 15 (July)
  • Single-Family Project : From 22 (June) to 21 (July)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : From 13 (June) to 10 (July)

The HMI's July reading of 14 puts confidence at its lowest point since April 2009.

For home buyers in Marietta , a drop in builder confidence could create an opportunity for negotiation.

Remember, it wasn't too long ago that most builders were flush with home inventory, unable to find willing buyers. To help move product at that time, builders dropped prices and offered incentives including free upgrades. If confidence continues to sag going forward, home purchase deals of that nature may return -- especially as the foreclosure market gets larger.

See, in the past, builders' main competition for buyers were the existing home sellers.  Today, builders compete with the existing home sellers and the banks with REO. 

It's a terrific time to be a home buyer, in other words -- sellers are fighting for you. It's no wonder sellers have little leverage anymore. Couple that with all-time low mortgage rates and affordability for homes is at an all-time high.

If you're planning to buy a home later this year, you may want to consider moving up your time frame. The market looks ripe for good deals this summer.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 19, 2010

Housing starts June 2008 - May 2010Mortgage markets improved for the 5th straight week last week as consumer confidence waned and inflation data tamed. Investors ignored the news that 19 of 23 reporting S&P 500 companies beat their respective earnings estimates and sold off on stocks.

There's concern about a potential economic slowdown for the months ahead and it may be well-founded.

Despite an improving jobs situation and booming retail sales, households are less optimistic about the future and so is the Federal Reserve. In its post-meeting minutes released last week, the Fed revised its U.S. growth estimates downward for 2010 and 2011.

For rate shoppers in Georgia , this is excellent news.

Because of the weakness, conforming mortgage rates fell again last week, extending the current rally in rates to 16 weeks. Mortgage rates are lower than at any time in measured history.

This week, data will be housing market-heavy and mortgage rates could rise or fall.

  • Monday : National Association of Home Builders Index
  • Tuesday : Building Permits and Housing Starts
  • Thursday : Existing Home Sales

Strength in any, or all three, of these housing-related reports should push mortgage rates higher on higher hopes for the economy. Weakness, on the other hand, should have the opposite effect. 

Overall, though, mortgage markets are trending better.  Momentum is in effect and refinance activity is soaring. That said, it doesn't mean that rates won't rise -- they could absolutely. It just takes a change in market sentiment. And that could happen quickly.

Mortgage rates are artificially right now so even the slightest jolt could cause them to spike. It would be similar to what happened in June 2009 when rates rose 1.125% in just 10 days' time. Therefore, if you're shopping for a mortgage and like the rate you've been quoted, consider locking in as soon as possible.

There's very little room for rates to fall further but a lot of room for rates to rise. Make sure you're on the right side of that bet.


The Fed's June Minutes Keep Mortgage Rates In Rally-Mode

FOMC June 2010 MinutesAccording to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates made new all-time lows this week and the good news is that rates look poised to fall even more.

Since the Federal Reserve's release of its June 2010 meeting minutes Wednesday, mortgage rates are dipping even more and one of the main reasons why is because of some choice Fed words.

If you've never seen a Fed Minutes release, it reads academic. The document is page after page of stats, facts and figures about the U.S. economy, accompanied by an in-depth recap of the intra-Fed member debates that shape the nation's monetary policy.

At 7,333 words, the June Fed Minutes is the unabridged version of the more well-known, post-meeting press release.  The corresponding press release was just 360 words.

As it turns out, Wall Street didn't like what it read in the minutes.  Specifically:

  1. The Fed expects below normal growth through 2012
  2. The Fed's outlook for employment has dipped
  3. Credit conditions are easing only slowly

Furthermore, the Fed said its action may be needed if the economy were "to worsen appreciably".

Overall, the economic optimism the Fed displayed earlier this year appears to be waning. The economy is moving forward -- just not as quickly as expected.  That should bode well for mortgage rates and home shopping in Marietta.

Mortgage rates were down Wednesday afternoon and Thursday and remain historically low. All it would take to reverse rates, however, is a run of positive news on jobs, growth, and consumer spending.  Therefore, if you know you need to lock a mortgage rate in the near-term, it may be a good time to make the call. 

Lock your mortgage rate and move on.


Foreclosure Activity Slows Again In June 2010

Foreclosures per capita, June 2010

313,841 foreclosure filings were made in June, according to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac. The figure represents a 3 percent drop from May and 7 percent drop from June of last year. However, foreclosure filings remain relatively high nationwide.

June marks the 16th straight month the filings topped 300,000. 1 in every 411 U.S. homes received some form of notice last month with foreclosure density varying wildly from state-to-state.

Like everything else in real estate, it seems, foreclosures are a local phenomenon.

The states with the highest foreclosures per capita were:

  • Nevada : 1 foreclosure filing per 88 homes
  • Florida : 1 foreclosure filing per 171 homes
  • Arizona : 1 foreclosure filing per 189 homes

The states with the lowest foreclosures per capita were:

  • Vermont : 1 foreclosure filing per 26,051 homes
  • West Virgina : 1 foreclosure filing per 8,058 homes
  • South Dakota : 1 foreclosure filing per 6,528 homes

Overall, 40 states beat the national Foreclosure Per Capita average and 10 states fell below. The sheer volume of REO, though, is creating interesting buying opportunities for first-timer buyers, move-up buyers, and real estate investors in Atlanta.

Homes bought from banks are usually less expensive than non-foreclosure homes. This is one of the major reasons why distressed sales account for roughly 30 percent of all home resales. Less expensive, though, doesn't always mean "cheaper". Foreclosed homes are often sold as-is and may be defective or otherwise uninhabitable.

Making repairs to get these homes into "living condition" can be costly.

Therefore, if you're buying a foreclosed home, make sure you know what you're buying before you make your bid. Have a certified professional inspect the home to check for damage, and consider enlisting the help of a real estate agent to assist with negotiations and management of the contract.

The process of buying a foreclosed home is different from buying a typical resale. Make sure you do your homework.


Atlanta Georgia Breaking News Jumbo Rates Lowest since 2003

Atlanta, GA by Peter Bright at Capital City Mortgage Investments writes the rates have not looked this good since 2003. Some fixed options exist at low as 5.5 % FIXED 30 year or 4.625(7 year ARM) with low or no closing costs. If you have at rate higher than 5.75% on either a fixed or ARM it makes to check out the many ways to save money or consider a 15 year term. 15 year terms rates have dipped into the 4% area! This really can allow you to crunch some principle on that jumbo mortgage! Bankrate's website showed this afternoon A.P.R.'s on Atlanta Jumbo mortgage money from 3.25% to 5.54% on a number on loans available. If I can help quote please call or click for a quick quote. javascript:void(0)

Wednesday's bond market has opened in positive territory

Wednesday's bond market has opened in positive territory following the release of much weaker than expected economic data. The stock markets are mixed with the Dow is currently down 16 points and the Nasdaq up 5 points. The bond market is currently up 7/32, but due to weakness late yesterday we will likely see little change in this morning's mortgage rates.

Today's big news was June's Retail Sales report that showed retail level sales fell 0.5% last month. This was weaker than the 0.2% decline that was expected and indicates that consumers spent less than thought. That is good news for the bond market because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy. If spending is slowing, broad economic strength is not likely, keeping inflation concerns to a minimum.

Later today we will get to see the minutes from the last FOMC meeting. There is a possibility of the markets reacting to them following their 2:00 PM ET release, especially if th ey show some divisiveness by its members during discussion and voting at the last meeting or give any indication of the Fed's possible next move with monetary policy. This could lead to changes in mortgage rates this afternoon.

Yesterday's 10-year Treasury Note auction was considered average at best. Most of the readings used to measure demand did not show much strength, leading to weakness in trading late yesterday. Today brings us the 30-year Treasury Bond sale and its results will also be posted at 1:00 PM ET. If it was met with an overly strong demand from investors, particularly international buyers, we should see bond strength during afternoon trading as long as the FOMC minutes don't give us negative surprises. However, today's sale is less important to mortgage rates than yesterday's was, so I suspect it will take a very strong auction for this sale to improve rates this afternoon.

There are two relevant reports scheduled for release tomor row. The first is June's Producer Price Index (PPI). It is a very important release because it measures inflationary pressures at the producer level of the economy. It is expected to show a 0.1% decline in the overall reading and a 0.1% increase in the core data reading. The core reading is the more important of the two because it excludes more volatile food and energy prices. The bond market should react quite favorably if we get weaker than expected readings, but a larger than expected rise in the core reading could send mortgage rates higher tomorrow.

June's Industrial Production data will be the second report tomorrow. This data measures output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities, giving us an indication of manufacturing sector strength. It is expected to show no change in the level of production, indicating that the manufacturing sector remained stable during the month. That would basically be good news for bonds, however, an unexpected decline would like ly help improve rates if the PPI showed favorable results.

If I were considering financing/refinancing a home, I would.... Lock

Mandatory Loan Fees Keep Borrowers From Getting Their Absolute Lowest Rate

Loan-level pricing adjustments add to mortgage costsConforming mortgage rates may be posting all-time lows this week, but that doesn't mean you'll be eligible for them. You may have already called your loan officer and found this out the hard way.

It's because of a federally-mandated mortgage-pricing scheme known as "loan-level pricing adjustments".

In effect since April 2009, loan-level pricing adjustments are changes to a loan's base rate and/or fee structure based on that loan's inherent risk to Wall Street. It's similar to auto insurance pricing adjustment in that a sports car, all things equal, will cost more to insure than a comparably-priced minivan.

More risk, more cost.

In mortgage lending, loan risk can be loosely grouped into 5 categories. Mortgage applications in Atlanta featuring any of the five traits are subject to price adjustments:

  1. Credit Score (i.e. the borrower's FICO is below 740)
  2. Property Type (i.e. the subject property is a multi-unit home)
  3. Occupancy (i.e. the subject property is an investment home)
  4. Structure (i.e. there is a subordinate/junior lien on title)
  5. Equity (i.e. mortgage insurance is required by the lender)

Furthermore, loan-level pricing adjustments are cumulative.

A 3-unit investment home will face larger adjustments than an owner-occupied 3-unit home, for example. It's these adjustments that explain why you may not be eligible for the rates you see advertised online and in the newspapers -- your particular loan may be subject to this risk-based pricing that raises your mortgage rate and closing costs.

The government's loan-level pricing adjustment schedule is public information. See what your lender and how your loan quote is made at the Fannie Mae website. Or, if you find the charts confusing, just call or email your loan officer for help with interpretation.


Should You Refinance Your ARM, Or Let It Adjust Lower?

ARM adjustment schedule 2008-2010

If your adjustable rate mortgage is due to adjust this year, don't go rushing to replace it just yet. Your soon-to-adjust mortgage rate may actually go lower. It's related to the math behind the ARM.

Conventional, adjustable-rate mortgages share a common life cycle:

  1. There's a "starter period" in which the interest rate remains fixed
  2. There's an initial adjustment period after the starter period called the "first adjustment"
  3. There's a subsequent annual adjustment until the loan's term expires -- usually at Year 30.

The starter period will vary from 1 to 10 years, but at the point of first adjustment, conventional ARMs become the same. A homeowner's new, adjusted mortgage rate is determined by the sum of some constant, and a variable. The constant is most often 2.25% and the variable is most often 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 the rate at which banks borrow money from each other and, lately, LIBOR has been low. As a result, adjusting mortgage rates have been low, too.

Last year, 5-year ARMs were adjusting to 6 percent or higher. Today, they're adjusting to 3.375%.

Based on the math, it may be wise to just let your ARM adjust this year. Or, depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, consider a refinance to a new ARM.  Starter rates on today's adjustable rate mortgages are exceptionally low in Atlanta , as are the rates for fixed rate loans.

Either way, talk to your loan officer about making a plan. With mortgage rates as low as they've ever been in history, homeowners have some interesting options. Just don't wait too long. LIBOR -- and mortgage rates in general -- are known to change quickly.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 11, 2010

Consumer Price Index May 2009-May 2010Mortgage markets improved again last week -- if only barely -- throughout a holiday-shortened week devoid of "major" data and market conviction.

Up-and-down trading characterized the week which ended with Georgia mortgage rates slightly lower versus the week prior.

Mortgage rates have fallen in 4 consecutive weeks and are on an extended rally that dates back to mid-April.

This week, however, data returns and rates could reverse. Especially with inflation numbers are in play.

Inflation is the enemy of mortgage rates.

Inflation is bad for mortgage rates because mortgage rates based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds.  When inflation pressures mount, the demand for mortgage-backed bonds wanes and that pushes bond prices down which, in turn, pushed bond yields (i.e. rates) up.

There's three pieces of inflation-related news this week.

The first inflation-related story is the Federal Reserve's Wednesday release of the minutes from its last meeting. Now, when the Fed adjourned June 23, it said "underlying inflation has trended lower". However, there was more to the conversation that what the FOMC released in its post-meeting statement. 

Markets will be looking for clues.

Then, Thursday, the Producer Price Index is released. The Producer Price Index is a measure of business operating costs. When PPI is increasing, it means that "doing business" is more expensive -- an inflationary situation. It's inflationary because higher business costs are often absorbed by consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services.

A rising PPI is usually bad for mortgage rates.

And lastly, Friday, the Consumer Price Index is released. The CPI measures the average American's "cost of living". Like PPI, when the Consumer Price Index is rising, mortgage rates tend to follow.

Other releases of import this week include Retail Sales and two consumer confidence surveys.

Last week, mortgage rates again made new all-time lows. If you haven't checked with your loan officer about the possibility of a refinance, make that call this week.  Mortgage rates can stay low for a long time, but they can't stay low forever. Lock your rate while you can.


The Flawed Home Price Index Shows Home Values Up 0.8 Percent

Monthly change in Home Price Index from April 2007 peak

Last week, the Case-Shiller Index reported home values up 0.8 percent across 20 tracked markets. The public-sector Federal Housing Finance Agency has reached a similar conclusion.

Reporting on a two-month lag, the government's Home Price Index shows home values up 0.8 percent in April, buoyed by the expiring federal home buyer tax credit and low mortgage rates.  It's a positive signal for a recovering housing market -- in Kennesaw and everywhere else.

But just because the Home Price Index says home values are rising, that doesn't mean they are. The Home Price Index methodology is flawed on multiple fronts.

First, the Home Price Index reports on a 60-day delay. This two-month lag turns the HPI a trailing indicator for the housing market instead of a forward-looking one. If you're a home buyer looking for direction, HPI won't give it to you -- you'll have to get that analysis from your real estate agent.

Second, HPI only accounts for home values in which the home's attached mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  As the FHA market share grows, fewer homes get included in the HPI sample set, and HPI values may be skewed high or low.

And, third, HPI doesn't account for new home sales -- only repeat ones.  This, too, eliminates a major segment of the market.

All of that said, though, the Home Price Index remains important to housing.  It's still the most comprehensive home valuation model in print and it's been giving strong readings since the start of year.  You can't ignore that on any level.

It's July and you may have missed the "rock bottom" Indian Hills home prices from earlier in the year, but homes are still relatively inexpensive. Couple that with all-time low mortgage rates and home affordability looks excellent. Consider making an offer while the terms are right.


Household Finances : Which Bills Should I Pay First?

Morning television can be "light", but as far as personal finance interviews go, this Suze Orman segment from The Today Show is loaded with practical financial planning advice.

Titled "What Should You Do First?", Ms. Orman addressed the real-life, money management conundrums households face, such as:

  • Should I pay off credit card bills, or create an emergency cash fund?
  • Should I pay off student loan debt, or pay off credit card bills?
  • Should I save for a child's college tuition, or save for my retirement?

In 5 minutes, the segment covers a half-dozen scenarios like the ones above, explaining what to do, and why to do it.

Ms. Orman's style may not interest you and financial advice is rarely universal, but the piece is worth watching.

Watch the clip on the NBC website.



June's Jobs Report Wasn't As Bad As The Headlines (And How You Can Take Advantage)

Net Job Gains July 2008 - June 2010In June, for the first time since December 2009, the U.S. workforce shrank.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy shed 125,000 jobs last month even as the Unemployment Rate dropped to 9.5 percent. The drop in the Unemployment Rate is being attributed to fewer Americans looking for work.

At first glance, the jobs report looks weak but a deeper look shows something different.

Excluding the 225,000 government Census workers that recently left the workforce, the total number of employed persons actually grew by 83,000 in June. That's 50,000 more working Americans as compared to May.

And, since the start of the year, the U.S. workforce has grown by 857,000.

Jobs growth is closely tied to economic growth because more working Americans means more disposable income which, in turn, stokes consumer spending. Job growth is better than job loss.

Consumer spending makes up the majority of the U.S. economy so as consumer spending grows, investor mentality tends to shifts toward "return on principal" (i.e. stock markets) from "safety of principal" (i.e. bond markets).

A move like this is often bad for home affordability because falling demand for bonds is tied to higher mortgage rates. In addition, with the growing number of Americans earning a paycheck, demand for homes is likely to increase, thereby helping to push home prices higher.

Overall, therefore, the jobs report should be bad for rate shoppers and home buyers in in Kennesaw. Except, the markets aren't reacting that way. For now, mortgage rates are slightly improved since the jobs report's release.

Perhaps Wall Street is watching the wrong figures, but don't let that be your loss. If you're shopping for a mortgage, a home, or both, now may be your best time to make a move; while rates are still low; with home prices down; before traders change their tune.

Because when markets change, it'll likely happen fast.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 6, 2010

Unemployment Rate 2007-2010Mortgage markets improved last week as economic data revealed a slowing U.S. economy.

Major stock indices fell to 2010 lows in response to a weak jobs report among other data points, forcing worldwide investors into the relative safety of U.S. government-backed bonds.  This category includes mortgage-backed bonds and the extra demand helped to drop rates.

Once again, mortgage rates improved in Georgia and Freddie Mac is reporting new all-time lows on three popular, conforming loan products:

  • The 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • The 15-year fixed rate mortgage
  • The 5-year adjustable rate mortgage

Low rates mean low payments and you can't know your options until you ask.

This week, mortgage rates may move slowly. There's very little data set for release because markets were closed Monday in observance of Independence Day, and because the second calendar week of a month is traditionally data-slow.

Tuesday, a consumer confidence study is published; Thursday, jobless claims plus consumer credit levels hit; and, Friday, we'll see wholesale inventories.  That's about it.  None of these reports are particularly important but, in aggregate, the numbers can show whether the economy is expanding or contracting.

In general, evidence of an expanding economy should cause mortgage rates to rise.  In a contracting economy, rates are likely to fall.

Actual mortgage rates will vary by borrower, based on property type, credit score, and home equity, but if you haven't talked to your loan officer about a refinance into today's rates, it's likely worth the time for a phone call.  Once mortgage rates start to reverse higher, they're expected to reverse quickly.

You'll want to act before that move occurs..


Was The Pending Home Sales Report Really That Bad? It Depends Who You Ask -- Buyer Or Seller.

Pending Home Sales Nov 2008 to May 2010The Pending Home Sales Index plunged in May 2010, just one month after the expiration of the federal home buyer tax credit program.

The Pending Home Sales Index is now at a record-low level.

A "pending home sale" is an existing home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. According to the National Association of Realtors®, 80 percent of homes under contract close within 60 days.

Because of this timeline, we can expect the summer's Existing Home Sales to be weak, too. With fewer homes going under contract, fewer homes can close.

On the surface, May's Pending Home Sales Index looks like terrible news for housing. And, if you're a seller, it just might be. But, if you're a buyer, the story reads differently.  Just consider the market conditions. 

A broad look at the housing market shows:

  1. Home supplies are rising in most markets
  2. Home sales are falling in most markets
  3. Mortgage rates are at all-time lows

In other words, in most markets, more sellers are competing for fewer buyers, and the "winning" buyers are financing their homes at the lowest rates in history.

It's an excellent time to be a home buyer in Marietta.


The Year Is Half-Over. How Did The Housing Experts Fare On Their Predictions?

Housing and mortgage rate forecastsAs 2009 was ending, the "experts" were busy making forecasts about the U.S. economy and what to expect in 2010.

With respect to the housing markets, two predictions were made again and again:

  1. Home prices would fall in the first half of 2010
  2. Mortgage rates would be higher in 2010

Well, it's July 1 and the year is half-over.  Both predictions are proving to be incorrect. Home values are rising in most markets and mortgage rates are down. Way down

It reminds us that economists are much more skilled with analysis of the past versus predictions of the future.

A pile of data can only get you so far.

Think of Atlanta housing market predictions like watching a local weather forecast. A meteorologist can look at the radar and tell you that rain is coming, but it's never with 100% certainty.  There is always a chance of change.

The housing market is the same way.  Just as the U.S. economy is unpredictable, so are housing prices, and so are mortgage rates. 

Therefore, when you have a personal finance decision to make, evaluate your options based on the information at hand today rather than an educated guess about the future. The future, after all, is subject to change -- despite what the experts forecast.