Archive for August, 2012

Comments Off on Mortgage Rates Rise For Third Straight Week

Mortgage Rates Rise For Third Straight Week


2012
08.17

30-year fixed rates rise

Mortgage rates in Scottsdale keep on rising.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, for the third straight week, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate rose, this time tacking on 3 basis points on a week-over-week basis to 3.62%, on average, nationwide. The 3.62% mortgage rate is available to mortgage applicants willing to pay 0.6 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

Freddie Mac’s published mortgage rates are compiled from a 125-bank survey.

Looking back, it appears that national 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates bottomed at 3.49% in late-July. In the weeks leading up to that bottom, mortgage rates had dropped in 11 of 12 weeks. Since then, though, rates have climbed steadily, moving to a 7-week high, depending on where you live. 

Mortgage rates vary by region. As reported by Freddie Mac, mortgage applicants in the South Region currently pay the highest rates. Applicants in the North Central currently pay the lowest.

  • Northeast Region : 3.62% with 0.6 discount points
  • West Region : 3.59% with 0.6 discount points
  • Southeast Region : 3.68% with 0.6 discount points
  • North Central Region : 3.58% with 0.6 discount points
  • Southwest Region : 3.66% with 0.6 discount points

Meanwhile, mortgage rates don’t figure to drop in the coming weeks. The same forces that drove mortgage rates down between January-July of this year are the same ones that are driving rates up today — expectations for new Federal Reserve-led stimulus.

Earlier this year, the economy was stalling; growing slowly, but not convincingly. This led to Wall Street speculation that the Federal Reserve would implement a bond-buying program that would lead mortgage rates down, among other outcomes. The Fed said it would do what is necessary to keep the economy on track which only served to fuel such speculation.

Last month, however, at the Federal Open Market Committee, Ben Bernanke & Co. did not add new stimulus, and seemed content to take a “wait-and-see” approach with the economy. And, since then, Europe appears to have put itself on-track and the U.S. economy has shown signs of expansion.   

This August rise in rates is Wall Street reversing its bets; making plans for no new stimulus at all.

Mortgage rates so remain low, though. If you’ve yet to join this year’s refinance boom, or if you’re hunting for a home, consider locking something in. In a few weeks, mortgage rates may be higher still.

Comments Off on Homebuilder Confidence Rises To 5-Year High

Homebuilder Confidence Rises To 5-Year High


2012
08.16

NAHB HMI 2010-2012Home builder confidence rises again.

For August 2012, the National Association of Homebuilders reports the monthly Housing Market Index at 37 — an increase of more than 100% from one year ago and the highest HMI value since February 2007.

The Housing Market Index is an indicator of homebuilder confidence and when it reads 50 or better, the HMI suggests favorable conditions for home builders. Readings below 50 suggest unfavorable conditions for builders.

Despite the recent rise in home builder attitudes, however, the Housing Market Index remains mired below 50 where it’s been since April 2006.

For new construction home buyers in Scottsdale , the HMI may offer insight into the market for new homes through the end of this year. This is because the NAHB Housing Market Index is a composite survey, meant to gauge builder sentiment in three specific areas — current business, future business, and buyer activity.

When all three fronts are rising, it points to an improving market for sellers (i.e. home builders). Unfortunately, though, what’s good for sellers can be damaging to buyers. Builders are less willing to make concessions on price or product when markets are getting stronger.

In August, home builders saw strength across all three categories :

  • Current Single-Family Sales : 39 (+3 from July)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 44 (+1 from July)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : 31 (+3 from July)

Especially noteworthy in the August HMI is that builders project more sales for the next six calendar months than they have projected at any time in the last 5 years. With mortgage rates at all-time lows and buyer foot traffic growing, it’s no wonder confidence is high.

When demand for homes is strong amid stagnant or falling supplies, home prices rise and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in many U.S. markets. It’s a good time to be a AZ home buyer today, but market momentum appears to be shifting.

If you’re in the market for a newly-built home, therefore, the best “deal” may be the one you get today. Next year, your costs may be higher. 

Comments Off on Home Affordability Sinks For The First Time In 12 Months

Home Affordability Sinks For The First Time In 12 Months


2012
08.15

Home Affordability Index 2012 Q2Rising home prices are taking a toll on today’s home buyers. For the first time in 4 quarters — and despite falling mortgage rates — home affordability is sinking. 

Earlier this week, the National Association of Home Builders reported the Home Opportunity Index, a measure of home affordability, down to 73.8 for the second quarter of the year. This marks the metric’s first “down” quarter since the second quarter of 2011, and is its lowest reading since December 2010.

A home is considered “affordable” when its payments meet standard mortgage underwriting criteria for families earning the local median income. This definition is used for homes across all U.S. markets — including for homes in Mesa.

73.8% of homes sold last quarter were affordable to households earning the national median income of $65,000. This is the 13th straight quarter dating back to 2009 that the index surpassed 70. Prior to 2009, the Home Opportunity Index had not crossed 70 even one time.

Like all real estate data, home affordability varied by locale.

In the Midwest, for example, affordability was highest. 7 of the top 10 most affordable markets nationwide were spread throughout the nation’s heartland. An Alaskan city took the top spot.

The top 5 most affordable cities for home buyers in Q2 2012 were:

  1. Fairbanks, AK (98.7%)
  2. Mansfield, OH (98.1%)
  3. Springfield, OH (95.9%)
  4. Carson City, NV (95.4%)
  5. Kokomo, IN (95.4%)

At #23, Ocala, Florida (91.7%) was the top-ranked South Region city last quarter.

By contrast, the Northeast Region and Southern California remained among the least affordable housing markets nationwide. Led by the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ area, 9 of the 10 least affordable areas were in the Mid-Atlantic and California, and for the 17th consecutive quarter the New York metro area was ranked “Least Affordable”.

Just 29.4 percent of homes were affordable to households earning the area’s median income there, down from 31.5 percent three months ago.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available for download on the NAHB website.

Comments Off on Should You Lease Or Buy Your Next Car? It May Affect Your Mortgage.

Should You Lease Or Buy Your Next Car? It May Affect Your Mortgage.


2012
08.14

Should you lease a new car, or should you buy one? Like most financial questions, the answer depends on your situation. For some people, leasing a car presents distinct economic advantages. For others, buying a car is the way to go.

There’s plenty of online material to help you choose your optimal path, but this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show serves as an excellent summary. In it, you’ll learn about the basics of leasing a car, and for whom leasing can be a great fit. You’ll also hear reasons to avoid a lease completely.

The NBC interview makes all of the following points :

  • Leasing allows you to drive a car that may be “too expensive” to purchase
  • Leasing puts you in a new car, with the latest safety features and gadgets, every few years
  • Buying a car means that you have no mileage limits, and can sell at any time

For many people, it concludes, buying a car is preferable to leasing one, with a notable exception being those people who can claim their car or truck as a tax deduction. Be sure to check with your tax advisor if you plan to take that route.

However, for another group — homeowners and active home buyers — leasing a car can invite mortgage approval trouble. This is because a car lease payment is assumed by a mortgage underwriter to be a perpetual debt; one that never reduces or gets extinguished. When a lease is complete, it must be replaced with a new lease, and so on.

Therefore, no matter how many payments remain in a lease, mortgage applicants must use the full car lease payment for purposes of a mortgage approval.

By contrast, for people whom are owners of their automobiles, car payments must only be added to debt ratios if more than 10 car payments remain until the car’s loan is paid-in-full. For homeowners and buyers in Scottsdale , this can improve debt-to-income ratios and support a higher purchase price on a home.

There is no firm rule for whether it better to lease a car or to own one. The arguments for both sides are compelling and reasonable. Start with the video, then do your own research. 

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 13, 2012

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 13, 2012


2012
08.13

30-year mortgage ratesMortgage markets worsened last week as the investors moved back into risk-taking mode. Better-than-expected economic data in the U.S. plus a general feeling that the ongoing Eurozone issues will be soon be resolved (or lessened) contributed to a second straight week of rising mortgage rates.

One such data point was the weekly Initial Jobless Claims report.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of U.S. workers filing for first-time unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped 6,000 from the week prior on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Economists had expected a week-over-week increase.

In addition, government-backed mortgage securitizers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both announced quarterly profits last week of a combined $8.3 billion. This, too, reflects well on the economy because both companies attributed strong results to a recovering housing market.

Conforming rates in Phoenix rose for the second straight week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate now averages 3.59% nationwide for mortgage applicants willing to pay 0.6 discount points plus a complete set of closing costs where 1 discount point is a loan fee equal to one percent of your loan size.  This is a 10 basis point increase from late-July, when rates averaged 3.49%.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage also moved higher, registering 2.84% last week after recently posting at 2.80%, on average.

This week, there won’t be much data to move markets. We’ll see the release of the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index — two inflationary gauges for the U.S. economy — as well as July’s Retail Sales report. Beyond that, however, there won’t be much. Therefore, be wary of day-to-day momentum in the mortgage bond market.

Between January and July, momentum took mortgage rates lower; eventually to an all-time low. Since August 1, however, that momentum has reversed.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate or are otherwise not yet locked, get with your loan officer quickly. Mortgage rates may fall between today and Friday, but there’s much more room for rates to rise instead.

Comments Off on 5 States Home To 50% Of Foreclosure Activity Nationwide

5 States Home To 50% Of Foreclosure Activity Nationwide


2012
08.10

Foreclosure stats July 2012Foreclosure pipelines are re-filling nationwide.

According to data from RealtyTrac, a national foreclosure-tracking firm, the number of foreclosure filings dipped below 192,000 in July 2012, a 3 percent decrease from the month prior.

RealtyTrac defines a “foreclosure filing” as any foreclosure-related action, including a Notice of Default, a Scheduled Auction, or a Bank Repossession.

July marks the 22nd straight month during which foreclosure filings fell on a year-over-year basis. At some point soon, however, that streak may end. This is because, for the third straight month, on an annual basis, foreclosures starts are on the rise.

More than 98,000 homes started the foreclosure process in July, a 6 percent increase from July of last year. Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania experienced the biggest increases, rising 201%, 164% and 139%, respectively.

Each is a judicial foreclosure state, which means that foreclosures must go through the state court system prior to auction.

Nationwide, just a few states accounted for the majority of July’s total foreclosure activity. 5 states were home to more than half of all tracked activity, according to RealtyTrac.

  • California : 21.9 percent
  • Florida : 13.3 percent
  • Illinois : 7.2 percent
  • Georgia : 5.7 percent
  • Texas : 5.2 percent

Collectively, these 5 states represent just 33 percent of the nation’s population.

In contrast to the five states above, the bottom 14 states accounted for just 1 percent of the nation’s foreclosure activity, led by North Dakota. In North Dakota, just 3 foreclosure filings were made in July. Other “fewest foreclosure” states in July included District of Columbia (7 filings), Vermont (31 filings), and South Dakota (63 filings).   

For home buyers in Phoenix , with more foreclosed properties expected to go for sale this year and next, there will be some excellent “deals” and discounts — foreclosed homes typically sell at discounts of 20% or more as compared to comparable, non-distressed homes. However, foreclosed homes are often sold as-is, which means they may have defects.

Before placing a bid on a foreclosed home, therefore, make sure to have an experienced real estate agent on your side. Buying a foreclosed home may save you money at your closing, but may cost you money longer-term.

Comments Off on Improving Market Index Spans 32 States, District Of Columbia

Improving Market Index Spans 32 States, District Of Columbia


2012
08.09

Improving Market Index

80 U.S. metropolitan markets are showing “measurable and sustained growth” this month, according to the National Association of Homebuilders’ Improving Market Index.

It’s good news for the economy and good news for housing. 

The NAHB’s Improving Market Index is meant to identify U.S. markets in expansion. It’s a composite of the three distinct data sets which, as a group, present a more holistic view of a given city’s growth :

  1. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the IMI tracks employment figures
  2. From Freddie Mac, the IMI tracks home price data
  3. From the Census Bureau, the IMI tracks single-family building permits

The home builder trade group compiles this data and, in order for a given metropolitan area to earn the label “improving”, the area must meet two specific growth conditions.

First, in a given city, each of the above data sets must show growth or expansion in the current calendar month. If one of the three do not show growth, the city cannot qualify.

Second, in a given city, at least six months must have passed since the most recent trough of all of the above metrics.  It’s this second clause that can make the Improving Market Index meaningful.

By focusing on long-term growth trends within a city, the IMI ignores “blips” and seasonal irregularities. 

The August IMI shows 80 improving markets nationwide, a 4-city decrease from July 2012. 5 new cities were added to the index including Miami, Florida; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Lubbock, Texas. Nine cities fell off the list.

Overall, 32 states are represented in the IMI, and the District of Columbia, too.

For today’s Phoenix home buyers, the IMI doesn’t provide much actionable information. It doesn’t show home prices, for example, nor the current demand for homes. What it shows is the strength of local economies, though, and in many cases, as the economy heats up, so do home prices.

The complete Improving Markets Index is available for download at the NAHB website.

Comments Off on Mortgage Standards Stop Tightening; Lending Soon To Loosen?

Mortgage Standards Stop Tightening; Lending Soon To Loosen?


2012
08.08

Fed Senior Loan Officer SurveyAs another signal of an improving U.S. economy, the nation’s biggest banks have started to loosen mortgage lending guidelines.

As reported by the Federal Reserve, last quarter, no “big banks” reported stricter mortgage standards as compared to the quarter prior and “modest fractions” of banks reported easier mortgage standards. 

The data comes from the Fed’s quarterly Senior Loan Officer Survey, a questionnaire sent to 64 domestic banks and 23 U.S. branches of foreign banks. The survey is meant to gauge, among other things, direct demand for consumer loans and banks’ willingness to meet this demand.

Not surprisingly, as mortgage rates fell to all-time lows last quarter, nearly all responding banks reported an increase in demand for prime residential mortgages where “prime residential mortgage” is defined as a mortgage for an applicant whose credit scores are high; whose payment history is unblemished; and, whose debt-to-income ratios are low.

Consumers were eager to buy homes and/or refinance them last quarter and 6% of the nation’s big banks said their credit standards “eased somewhat” during that time frame. The remaining 94% of big banks said standards were left unchanged.

The ease of getting approved for a home loan, however, is relative.

As compared to 5 years ago, Phoenix home buyers and rate shoppers face a distinctly more challenging mortgage environment. Not only are today’s minimum FICO score requirements higher by up to 100 points, depending on the loan product, applicants face new income scrutiny and must also demonstrate a more clear capacity to make repayments.

Tougher lending standards are among the reasons why the national home ownership rate is at its lowest point since 1997. It is harder to get mortgage-approved today as compared to late-last decade.

For those who apply and succeed, the reward is access to the lowest mortgage rates in a lifetime. Mortgage rates throughout Arizona continue to push home affordability to all-time highs.

If you’ve been shopping for a home, or planning to refinance, with mortgage rates low, it’s a good time to commit. 

Comments Off on Closing At The End Of August? Plan Ahead For Labor Day Weekend.

Closing At The End Of August? Plan Ahead For Labor Day Weekend.


2012
08.07

Labor Day ClosingPlanning to make a late-August purchase closing? Keep an eye on your calendar. The last Friday of this month coincides with Labor Day Weekend, which may make for a complicated, end-of-month closing.

If you’re planning to close on, or around, August 31, 2012, plan ahead. Leaving anything to the proverbial last minute could delay your closing by hours in a best-case scenario, and by days in a worst-case.

This is because Labor Day is among the most popular vacation times of the year in the real estate, title and mortgage industries and, as Labor Day approaches, it’s increasingly hard to resolve “issues” related to settlement — not all parties are readily available for resolution.

A small closing issue, therefore, can spiral into a major one when you can’t reach your attorney; or, when the title company is short-staffed, for example. 

For Scottsdale home buyers currently under contract, and for homeowners with a refinance in-process, the best defense at a time like this is a good offense. Get proactive with the mortgage process.

These steps can help your end-of-month closing go more smoothly this month :

  1. Prepay your first year of homeowners insurance, effective your closing date. Provide proof of payment to your lender.
  2. Document and deposit all gifts and retirement withdrawals to be used in conjunction with your closing as early in the process as possible.
  3. If applicable, get Power of Attorney forms signed by all parties, and lender-approved in advance. Don’t leave this for the last week.
  4. When your lender makes requests for paperwork, fulfill the requests within 24 hours, when possible.

In addition, if you’re a home buyer, consider scheduling your home walk-through for as early as can be reasonable. That way, if there’s an issue to resolve, there’s ample time to address it among all parties.

Furthermore, if you have planned vacation time between today and your closing date, make it known to all parties, and make sure to be reachable in the event of emergency by phone and/or email.

Real estate brokerages, title companies and mortgage lenders are notoriously short-staffed as Labor Day approached. Routine tasks take longer than usual. Plan ahead for August 31, therefore. It would be foolish not to.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 6, 2012

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 6, 2012


2012
08.06

Unemployment RateMortgage bonds worsened last week in a news- and event-heavy week. A series of non-action from the world’s central banks — including the Federal Reserve — plus a better-than-expected jobs report pushed mortgage rates to their highest levels in more than a month.

Conforming mortgage rates rose in Mesa and nationwide last week.

The week wasn’t without drama, however. Mortgage rates carved out a wide range.

When the week opened, mortgage markets were in a rally mode. The European Central Bank had previously said that it would do whatever was needed to preserve the European Union. However, details failed to emerge on that plan, leading to a “risk off” scenario in which investors moved money into the relative safety of bonds, a class which includes mortgage-backed securities.

Mortgage rates dropped Monday and Tuesday.

Then, Wednesday, beginning at 2:15 PM ET, mortgage rates spiked. The timing coincides with the end of the Federal Open Market Committee’s scheduled 2-day meeting and its statement to the markets. In it, the Fed said it will leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged in its target range of 0.000-0.250%, and that it will not add new stimulus to the markets or the economy.

Wall Street had expected the Federal Reserve to launch new support for bond markets and, when the Fed chose against it, bond markets sold off, sending mortgage rates higher.

Thursday, mortgage rates, once again, slipped. This occurred after the European Central Bank emerged from a meeting with no clear plan to “save the Euro”. Markets believe the ECB will take some action, but because that action won’t happen right away, investors once more poured into the relative safety of mortgage bonds.

Lastly, on Friday, the U.S. Non-Farm Payrolls report showed 163,000 net new jobs added in July, far exceeding analyst expectations of 100,000 net new jobs. The surprise result sent stock markets soaring and bond markets sinking. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose all day, and is now at its highest level in close to 6 weeks.

Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.55% last week. It’s higher than that now.

This week, there isn’t much economic data on which for markets to move so expect to see rhetoric and momentum take center stage. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke makes two public appearances and Eurozone leaders will continue to be in the news.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate right now, a prudent move may be to lock it.