Archive for July, 2008

Comments Off on Mortgage Rates Spike On Highest Cost Of Living Index Since 1991

Mortgage Rates Spike On Highest Cost Of Living Index Since 1991


Another day, another piece of inflationary data.

June’s Consumer Price Index showed a 5 percent year-over-year increase in what is now the largest annual Cost of Living increase for Americans in 17 years.

This is bad news for both home buyers and homeowners in want of a new mortgage because rising costs are inflationary and inflation causes mortgage rates to move higher.

Predictably, mortgage rates jumped Wednesday morning after the CPI data was released and they edged higher throughout the rest of the day.

This morning, mortgage rates are higher again on unexpected strength in housing starts and building permits across the country.

On most mortgage products, rates are now higher by 0.250 or more since Tuesday. This is equivalent to $192 in extra mortgage payments per year per $100,000 borrowed.

Comments Off on 10 Cities That May Be Signaling That The Worst Of Housing May Already Be Over

10 Cities That May Be Signaling That The Worst Of Housing May Already Be Over


Last week, Forbes Magazine published a Top 10 list that should grab the attention of housing market bottom-feeders.

The Top 10 list of Increasingly Affordable U.S. Housing Markets shows that falling home prices and steady mortgage rates are providing a support floor in some of the country’s most beat-up regions.

The report’s methodology is simple:

  • Take citywide income data as reported by HUD
  • Match it against purchase prices from court records
  • Run the math using “prevailing interest rates” from Wells Fargo

A city is considered “more affordable” if increasing numbers of “average families” can afford “average homes”. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Forbes list is dominated by cities in which home prices have plummeted over the last year, and in which he economy is relatively sound.

This may suggest that a housing rebound is already underway in several of the cities listed as Increasingly Affordable U.S. Housing Markets, including:

  • San Diego, CA
  • Orlando, FL
  • Riverside, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Las Vegas, NV

Read the complete study and its results at

Comments Off on Fannie And Freddie Are Yesterday’s News, Says The Market

Fannie And Freddie Are Yesterday’s News, Says The Market


Mortgage markets have turned their attention back to the U.S. economy this morning, causing yesterday’s rate improvements to unwind a bit.

Rates had fallen Monday after the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury’s joint announcement in support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Today, it’s the data that is taking center stage.

Most notably, the U.S. Dollar is trading at an all-time low versus the Euro and other currencies.

This is a negative for active home buyers because American homeowners repay their mortgage interest in U.S. dollars. When the dollar loses value, so does the value of those interest payments so mortgage rates end up increasing in order to attract new investors.

Another reason why mortgage rates are higher this morning is that June’s Producer Price Index registered much higher than was expected, posting its largest one-month gain since November 2007.

PPI is a lot like the Cost of Living index, except that it measures operating costs for businesses instead. When business costs are increasing, they are often passed onto consumers and this is why rising PPI is thought to be inflationary and inflation — like a weakening dollar — pressures mortgage rates to rise.

So, while Monday’s rate improvements haven’t completely erased, today’s action reminds us that mortgage markets wait for no one and yesterday’s mortgage rates rarely carry forward.

Especially when inflation is in the mix.

Comments Off on Looking Back And Looking Ahead : July 14, 2008

Looking Back And Looking Ahead : July 14, 2008


Mortgage rates fell slightly in a week that included a bank failure, more oil price spikes, and questions about the health of the nations’ mortgage market.

Rates would have fallen more if not for a late-Friday sell-off that added 0.125 percent to most products.

As financial markets fell under stress, most people missed the strong points that emerged about the U.S. economy last week:

And, also worth noting: homes under contract slipped but remained above the lowest levels of the year, suggesting a potential housing floor.

But, the biggest story of last week was the stock-price collapse and subsequent pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It should be the biggest story of this week, too.

So far, Fannie and Freddie’s issues appear to be more psychological in nature than fundamental, but to an already roiled market, negative perception can quickly become reality. This is one of the biggest reasons why both the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury made public statements Sunday in support of Fannie and Freddie, and in advance of the Asian markets’ opening.

Other events that may move markets this week include Retail Sales data on Tuesday, consumer inflation data on Wednesday and Ben Bernanke’s two-day testimony to Congress which takes place over both Tuesday and Wednesday.

It’s unclear in which direction mortgage rates will go, but because the markets are on-edge, expect rate movements to be sharp and quick. In other words, if you’re in the market for a mortgage this week and you see a rate and payment you like, don’t mess around with it — just get it locked.

Comments Off on How Is The Economy Doing? It Depends Who You Ask.

How Is The Economy Doing? It Depends Who You Ask.


“Economic uncertainty” is turning into a 2008 buzzword and there’s good reasons why.

On the one hand, there are precursors to inflation in the economy:

  • Rising oil costs
  • Rising food prices
  • Higher Cost of Living

On the other hand, there are precursors to recession in the economy, too:

  • Mounting job losses
  • Less access to credit and/or loans
  • Falling consumer confidence data

The pie chart at right illustrates just how uncertain the “experts” are about the state of the U.S. economy. They’re evenly split, right down the middle.

This isn’t good news or bad news for Americans, per se, but it does legitimize the idea that the economy’s future direction is in doubt. This is one of the biggest reasons why there’s been no clear direction for mortgage rates or stock markets since the start of the year.

Until the picture gets more clear, we can expect the volatility to continue.

Comments Off on Foreclosure Rates Are Falling (Despite What You See In The Headlines)

Foreclosure Rates Are Falling (Despite What You See In The Headlines)


Foreclosures fell in June 2008 by 3 percent from May 2008According to RealtyTrac, the rate of foreclosures across the U.S. is slowing. Versus May, June foreclosures fell at a 3 percent clip.

25 states showed improvement month-over-month, led by many of the same areas that had fueled foreclosure activity in 2007.

A sampling of RealtyTrac’s data includes:

  • California : Foreclosures down 4.54 percent
  • Georgia : Foreclosures down 14.91 percent
  • Arizona : Foreclosures down 0.07 percent
  • Michigan : Foreclosures down 6.00 percent
  • Illinois : Foreclosures down 15.65 percent

However, the improving nature of the data is not what is making news this morning. Instead, the press is reporting that foreclosures are up by half since last year and that bank seizures have tripled.

And while the annual data may be accurate, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily relevant to home buyers and home sellers across the country.

This is because people buying and selling homes don’t usually boast an “annual” mentality; when someone’s an active participant in the real estate market, the mentality is “right now”.

In other words, annual data fits an economist, but month-to-month data fits you.

June’s foreclosure data may be the start of a trend, or it may be a blip. It’s really too soon to tell. But the RealtyTrac data reinforces what real estate professionals already know — that markets all over the country are showing signs of life.

Comments Off on The “Sheep Effect” On Your Housing Payment

The “Sheep Effect” On Your Housing Payment


In times of uncertainty, mortgage bond traders make like sheep and follow the herdA noon-hour, mortgage-bond rally rendered homes more affordable for Americans Tuesday. It was the second straight day on which this happened.

On both days, the action was swift.

The speed at which Monday’s and Tuesday’s respective rallies tore through mortgage markets illustrates how deep the uncertainty that surrounds the U.S. economy really is.

One reason why the market swings so quickly is that, lately, traders are tending to follow the herd.

As a mortgage rate shopper, it’s outstanding when the herd is moving in your favor. However, when the herd moves in the opposite direction, the impact on your monthly housing cost can be huge.

Volatility has been the common theme for mortgage rates in 2008 and it’s likely to remain a factor until the nation’s economic picture gets a little bit more clear.

Some experts are saying that may happen in 2009. Therefore, you should be prepared for rapid mortgage rate movement and act accordingly when you see a rate-and-payment combination that makes sense for your household budget.

The payment you see in the morning is likely to be gone by the afternoon.

Comments Off on Why July May Be The Best Time To Write A Purchase Contract In 2008

Why July May Be The Best Time To Write A Purchase Contract In 2008


Time is running out for Alt-A borrowerIt’s a terrific time to buy a home, but not because homes happen to be affordable.

It’s a terrific time to buy because the variety of mortgage products available to home buyers looks poised to shrink.

Monday, Alt-A mortgage lender IndyMac Bank stopped accepting mortgage applications and it’s likely that other Alt-A lenders will likely follow suit.

Alt-A loans are ones in which borrowers can’t (or won’t) verify one of two major underwriting criteria:

  • Evidence of income
  • Evidence of assets

Since the Credit Crunch began last July, Alt-A mortgages have been a steady source of funds for “in-between” borrowers — those that are not quite prime, and not quite sub-prime. IndyMac was among the largest lenders of its type and had outlasted many of its peers.

Its position as a market leader and subsequent exit from lending means that the remaining Alt-A lenders will likely make one of two choices in the coming weeks:

  1. Raise rates and fees because of greater Alt-A mortgage risk, or
  2. Follow IndyMac’s lead and exit mortgage lending altogether

Both outcomes would be harsh for home buyers of all types because when any large bank takes mortgage-related losses like IndyMac just did, it tends to create major risk aversion in the market.

Risk aversion impacts everyone — even the “good” borrowers.

Banks have been nervous about lending for several months and so they’d rather pass on an “average” mortgage application rather than risk getting stuck with a potentially “bad” one. IndyMac’s exit may cause fewer mortgages to get approved.

In other words, buyers eligible for financing today may be ineligible tomorrow.

Therefore, if you’re a home buyer and you know your credit profile is less-than-ideal, consider writing a purchase contract sooner rather than later. Your mortgage options may be thinning, and the ones you have may be getting more expensive.

Comments Off on Looking Back And Looking Ahead : July 7, 2008

Looking Back And Looking Ahead : July 7, 2008


Last week was fairly uneventful in the mortgage markets, with rates slightly edging lower across the board and without much data to influence trading.

Even Thursday morning’s hotly-anticipated jobs report was met with lukewarm interest; many traders had already left for the weekend.

Mortgage rates just drifted — a little up and little down, but mostly unchanged.

Mortgage insiders may have found last week to be boring, but for active home buyers, the semi-lull was a welcome break from the up-and-downs that have gripped the markets since January.

It’s been three consecutive weeks without a substantial increase to mortgage rates.

This week, rates aren’t expected to be as calm because Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is taking two heavy topics and making public speeches about them.

The first speech is to the FDIC on Tuesday. The speech will focus on mortgage lending. The second is to House Financial Services Committee on Thursday and it will cover financial market regulation. In both speeches, expect Bernanke is expected to address inflation and the health of the U.S. banking system.

These two subjects are closely linked to mortgage rates so watch for rate movement during, and after, the speeches.

  • If Bernanke says inflation is moderating, mortgage rates should fall
  • If Bernanke says the financial system is stabilizing, mortgage rates should rise

From a data perspective, there’s not much doing other than Friday’s Consumer Confidence survey. Confidence surveys don’t have a direct impact on the economy, but markets are watching them more closely. A strong reading could benefit the stock market which should, in turn, cause mortgage rates to rise.

Comments Off on How Job Losses In The Economy Are Helping Home Affordability

How Job Losses In The Economy Are Helping Home Affordability


On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report.

More commonly, it’s called the “jobs report”.

The jobs report is a sector-by-sector look into the U.S. economy and whether businesses are hiring — or firing — workers. This is one of the reasons why its release is so hotly anticipated each month — the jobs report can reveal a lot about the state of the U.S. economy.

Last month, the economy shed 62,000 jobs.

Now, many people will assume that job losses like this are terrible for the U.S. economy. Sometimes, that’s true.

This month, it’s not.

Given the ongoing tug-o-war between inflation and recession, markets are somewhat pleased with the June job loss figures because job losses reduce the likelihood of inflation in the U.S. economy.

Inflation is considered by many — Ben Bernanke included — to be among the top threats to the U.S. economy — it devalues the dollar and leads to increases in the Cost of Living.

Inflation also threatens home affordability because mortgage rates tend to rise when inflation is present.

June’s job losses — while bad for those impacted — is helping to relieve inflationary pressures on the economy and that is boosting markets performance this morning. Stocks are slightly up, and mortgage rates are slightly down.