Mortgage bond prices rose nicely on Thursday, pushing mortgage backed security yields to their lowest levels in nearly three weeks following soft economic data. As a result, 30YR Fixed interest rates remain at 4.875% to end the week. While Labor Department officials surmised that the rise in jobless claims was a result of delayed reporting from the prior week, the claims have definitely drifted higher following what now appears to have been an overstated plunge in December/January. This morning, bond prices are mixed and have shown little reaction to the second report of Q4 GDP. Growth was revised higher, to 5.9% from 5.7% for the quarter, but personal consumption was revised lower, to 1.7% from 2.0%. Later today, we will receive the U of M's final February consumer confidence index as well as January's existing home sales data. With existing home sales now representing about 90% of all sales, it's about the only housing data (other than valuations) that matters.
Mortgage rates in Massachusetts remianed quite steady to start the week, despite a recent rally in the equities market. The Obama Administration recently released their 2011 Budget/Forecast, providing analyst with a plethora of data to scrutinize. What does this mean for mortgage rates? Well, the budget calls for $1.6 trillion in deficit spending next year, thus placing a strain on Treasury auctions needed to eventually pay-off the debt, thus placing a burden on the yields (%) for mortgage backed securities. Should yields on mortgage backed securities (MBS) rise, a rise on interest rates will surely follow to offset the MBS yield pay-outs to investors. Furthermore, should the Federal Reserve continue its' plan to cease purchasing mortgage backed securities at the end of March 2010, mortgage rates will most certainly rise from the historic levels we've been celebrating for the past 12 months. This is one major reason HomeQuest Mortgage professionals are urging consumers to act now and avoid missing the opportunities in today's marketplace.
The Pending Home Sales report will hit the news wires today to provide us with some insight to the recent trends in the housing market. The National Association of Realtors releases the report, which shows the monthly change in the amount of existing homes (excluding new construction) in which a purchase & sale contract has been signed, however pending a closing date. Pending Home Sales is a leading indicator of the housing activity and economic momentum, as it provides supplemental evidence of consumer confidence. In addition, home purchases stimulate the economy in other retail merchandising, as there are many other housing fixtures needed to complete the furnishing of the home. The data in this report has a two month lag time, so today's data is for the prior month of December 09.
Massachusetts mortgage rates closed the month of November at a near 52 week low, causing new loan originations at many brokerage firms to soar. Many homeowners decided to take advantage of the opportunity and were able to lock-in at historically low interest rates. On November 27th, mortgage backed securities (MBS: FNMA 30YR 4.50%) traded at their highest price since January 7, 2009, driving 30 Year Fixed rates down to 4.625%. The national 30 year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.71% for the week ending Dec. 3rd...the lowest average since Freddie Mac began its weekly survey in 1971. To benchmark, Massachusetts mortgage rates are down from 4.78% last week and 5.53% a year ago. Those tracking rates may recall mortgage rates around 6.00% this past summer.
In general, bond prices and bond yields share an inverse relationship...when mortgage backed securities are in high demand, MBS prices increase and yields decline. When bond yields decline, mortgage rates typically decrease. Bonds are a safe-haven for financial investors looking for an alternative to the risky equity markets. Last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the recovery would not be an easy one, inflation will remain low and that rates will remain low for an extended period of time. As a result, the mortgage backed securities experienced a substantial sell-off, causing prices to drop and mortgage rates to increase .125-.250% by week ending Friday December 4th.
In summary, I encourage anyone pondering the thought of refinancing to act now and take advantage of the all-time low rates...don't attempt to time the market! Many homeowners are hesitant to pull the trigger in hopes of obtaining a lower rate and end up missing the opportunity. Often times, the media/publications can confuse borrowers. Rate shoppers become frustrated when they call their mortgage broker inquiring about current rates to find out the rates are different then what they're reading online or in the newspaper. It's important that shoppers understand mortgage backed securities are indeed "securities" that trade in "real time" and are subject to change hourly due to market volatility. Many online advertising websites are updated 3-4 times daily, however it is too cumbersome a project to modify websites an a minute-by-minute basis. Newspaper rates are typically due the Wednesday before the Sunday publication, thus mortgage rates are nearly 4 days out-dated by the time shoppers are reading the mortgage grids.
Lastly, Fannie Mae announced it will be tightening their lending guidelines on December 12th...no doubt causing headaches for borrowers looking to obtain financing.
HomeQuest Mortgage offers a FREE Rate Alert program to assist our customers. Simply tell us what rate you desire and our team of analyst will contact you once your target rate is available. To learn more, visit www.HQWorksForMe.com.
The mortgage lending guidelines will tighten once again on December 12, 2009 making it more difficult for some borrowers to obtain a purchase loan or refinance their existing mortgage.
Fannie Mae announced it will limit the maximum debt-to-income ratio to 45% of a borrower's gross income. Previously, a borrower could qualify up to 50-55% debt ratios. Fannie Mae did mention that they will consider debt-ratios up to 50% assuming the borrower can provide "strong compensating factors". This would include high credit scores, low loan-to-values (LTV's) and/or significant cash reserves.
In addition to debt ratios, Fannie Mae will also require a minimum credit score of 620, previously the minimum was 580. Fannie Mae believes raising the minimum credit scores and tightening the debt ratios will support prudent risk management and better ensure sustainable homeownership. One can argue that this is an effort to crackdown on the loose lending standards that led to the mortgage crisis that started in 2008. Industry professionals are concerned the new requirements may offset the initiatives introduced by the government to provide more liquidity in the secondary lending market.
Current mortgage rates are at an all-time low right now, so act now and avoid these stringent guidelines. Please call a HomeQuest Mortgage representative for more details at 866-839-1117.
Mortgage interest rates are currently at the lowest levels of all time surpassing the best levels from January of this year. The new run lower in mortgage rates has been spurred on by tightening spreads between mortgage backed securities and US treasury debt. The Federal Reserve still has money left in their program to keep mortgage rates low but they have begun to wind it down.
Mortgage rates are at all time lows across the board from 30 year fixed rates to 20, 15 and 10 year fixed all the way to 5/1 and 7/1 adjustable rate loans.
Other good news in the mortgage market to go along with all time low interest rates is the announcement of the first time homebuyer tax credit being extended into next year. Also, the expanded conforming jumbo loan limits will also be carried over into next year. Both of these programs were originally going to expire in 2009. This helps open up the guidelines and allow more borrowers to take advantage of the low mortgage interest rates that are available.
The big current event that is impacting both the mortgage market and the equity markets today is news out of Dubai that Dubai World, the city-state's largest corporate entity, has asked it's creditors for a 6 month break on payments of $60 billion (60,000,000,000) in debts. This has caused concern that the worst of the financial crisis might not be over. Yields on US treasuries have moved lower this morning as stocks have been declining. US treasuries are used as a benchmark for Mortgage Backed Securities which have also seen their yields dropping (leads to lower mortgage rates) this morning.
Mortgage interest rates have been falling over the past month back to the best levels of the year. This drop in mortgage rates has happened despite a strong rally in the stock market. Usually when stocks rally, mortgage rates get worse.
Many analysts think that the stock market is overbought and will sell off soon. If that were to happen then we could see mortgage rates move even lower. One thing working against mortgage rates is the Federal Reserve beginning to wind down their purchase of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS). This program was started at the beginning of the year in an effort to tighten the spread on MBS and bring mortgage rates down. Originally the Fed was going to use $1.25 trillion dollars to buy mortgage backed securities by the end of this year. On Wednesday the Fed announced that instead of spending all $1.25 trillion by the end of this year, they would be slowing their daily purchases of MBS so that the funds are not gone until the end of March 2010. As the Fed buys less MBS each day in order to make the $1.25 trillion last longer and gradually exit the market, mortgage rates could begin to go up.
It is always hard to predict where mortgage rates are headed. In the current times it is even more difficult because of the unprecedented Fed involvement and the uncertainty about how much rates will increase up when the Fed exits the market.
The Obama Administration unveiled the final details of its "Making Home Affordable Program," which is designed to help up to 9 million American families refinance or modify their loans to a payment that is affordable now and into the future. One of the initiatives in this program is aimed at helping responsible homeowners "refinance" their loans to take advantage of historically low interest rates. Here are some common Questions and Answers about the Refinancing Initiative in the program.
Am I required to pay PMI if I have less than 20% equity in my home? If your original loan had 20% equity and/or you do not currently pay PMI, then you are not required to obtain PMI under the new refinance initiative. In other words, you are eligible to refinance up to 105% of the value of your home and not be required to pay monthly PMI payments. If your current mortgage has PMI or was at 80% or greater than the value of the home, then you will still be required to pay PMI. This initiative provides a solution for borrowers with LTV's above 80% who currently may not be able to refinance because of mortgage insurance (PMI) requirements.
REFINANCING INITIATIVE Who is eligible? You may be eligible if: You own and currently occupy a one- to four-unit home. Your mortgage is owned or controlled by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You are current on your mortgage payments. The amount you owe on your first mortgage is about the same or slightly less than the current value of your house. And, you have a stable income sufficient to support the new mortgage payments.
How do I know if my loan is owned or controlled by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? Simply call or email us. We'll help you determine if your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
I owe more than my property is worth. Do I still qualify to refinance under the Making Home Affordable Program? Eligible loans will include those where the first mortgage will not exceed 105% of the current market value of the property. For example, if your property is worth $200,000 but you owe $210,000 or less, you may qualify. The current value of your property will be determined after you apply to refinance.
If I am delinquent on my mortgage, do I still qualify for the Refinance Initiative? No. But the good news is, you may qualify for the Modification Initiative. Contact us to discuss your situation and review your options.
I have both a first and a second mortgage. Do I still qualify to refinance under Making Home Affordable? As long as the amount due on the first mortgage is less than 105% of the value of the property, borrowers with more than one mortgage may be eligible for the Refinance Initiative.
Will refinancing lower my payments? That depends. If your interest rate is much higher than the current market rate, you would likely see an immediate reduction in your payment amount. However, if you are paying interest only on your mortgage, you may not see your payment go down. BUT... you will be able to avoid future mortgage payment increases and may save a great deal over the life of the loan.
Will refinancing reduce the amount that I owe on my loan? No. Refinancing will not reduce the principal amount you owe. However, refinancing should save you money by reducing the amount of interest that you repay over the life of the loan.
Can I get cash out to pay other debts? No. Only transaction costs, such as the cost of an appraisal or title report may be included in the refinanced amount.
How do I apply for the Refinance Initiative? Call or email us today to discuss your specific situation and to examine your options. If this plan is right for you, we can begin working on your refinance immediately. As part of the discussion, we may need to look at the following information: Recent pay stubs to help determine your gross (before tax) household income. Your most recent income tax return. Information about any second mortgage on your house. Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all of your credit cards. Account balances and monthly payments on all other debts, such as student loans and car loans.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss how this may specifically impact you, we'd be happy to sit down with you. Just call or email us to set up an appointment.
Tax Credit for Homebuyers
First-time homebuyers who purchase homes from the start of the year until the end of November 2009 may be eligible for the lower of an $8,000 or 10% of the value of the home tax credit. Remember a tax credit is very different than a tax deduction - a tax credit is equivalent to money in your hand, as opposed to a tax deduction which only reduces your taxable income.
The tax credit starts phasing out for couples with incomes above $150,000 and single filers with incomes above $75,000. Buyers will have to repay the credit if they sell their homes within three years.
Tax Credit Versus Tax Deduction
It's important to remember that the $8,000 tax credit is just that... a tax credit. The benefit of a tax credit is that it's a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction, rather than a reduction in a tax liability that would only save you $1,000 to $1,500 when all was said and done. So, if a homebuyer were to owe $8,000 in income taxes and would qualify for the $8,000 tax credit, they would owe nothing.
Better still, the tax credit is refundable, which means the homebuyer can receive a check for the credit if he or she has little income tax liability. For example, if a homebuyer is liable for $4,000 in income tax, he can offset that $4,000 with half of the tax credit... and still receive a check for the remaining $4,000!
According to the plan, the tax credit starts phasing out for couples with incomes above $150,000 and single filers with incomes above $75,000.Homes that Qualify
To break down what this phaseout means to homebuyers who are over those amounts, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) offers the following examples:
Example 1: Assume that a married couple has a modified adjusted gross income of $160,000. The applicable phaseout to qualify for the tax credit is $150,000, and the couple is $10,000 over this amount. Dividing $10,000 by $20,000 yields 0.5. When you subtract 0.5 from 1.0, the result is 0.5. To determine the amount of the partial first-time homebuyer tax credit that is available to this couple, multiply $8,000 by 0.5. The result is $4,000.
Example 2: Assume that an individual homebuyer has a modified adjusted gross income of $88,000. The buyer's income exceeds $75,000 by $13,000. Dividing $13,000 by $20,000 yields 0.65. When you subtract 0.65 from 1.0, the result is 0.35. Multiplying $8,000 by 0.35 shows that the buyer is eligible for a partial tax credit of $2,800.
Remember, these are general examples. You should always consult your tax advisor for information relating to your specific circumstances.
The tax credit is applicable to any home that will be used as a principle residence. Based on that guideline, qualifying homes include single-family detached homes, as well as attached homes such as townhouses and condominiums. In addition, manufactured or homes and houseboats used for principle residence also qualify.Higher Loan Amounts
More good news - there is an extension on the additional tier of conforming loan amounts which had been first established in 2008. This tier of home loans are those greater than $417,000, and with a maximum that depends on the area, but is not greater than $729,750. These loans will again be eligible for rates that are slightly higher than conforming loan rates, but less expensive than the standard "jumbo" loan rates.
Mortgage interest rates have begun to come off the all time lows from early January and seem to have settled in the low 5% range on 30 year fixed mortgages with no points. One of the reasons that rates have begun to increase is all of the planned stimulus packages and spending that newly elected President Obama has on the table. The way these packages will be financed is through increased government borrowing in the form of increased supply of treasury notes. This expectation of increased supply in the bond market has lead to higher yields in all bond markets and caused mortgage backed securities (MBS) to follow with higher yields as well. Along with increased supply pulling the price of bonds down and thus increasing the yield; there is fear among investors that inflation will eventually pick up if the stimulus packages spark an economic recovery.
The Fed is going forward with their program of purchasing MBS on the open market. They have consistently been buying 3 to 4 billion of agency MBS each day. If it were not for this constant demand provided by the Fed, mortgage rates would be much higher than they are today.
On the bright side, as lenders get caught up on loans in their pipeline over the next month they should get more aggressive in the rates they offer on their daily rate sheets in an effort to keep the new loans coming in. This tightening of the spread between lenders rate sheets and MBS pricing could lead to lower rates again sometime in the next month.
While 30 year rates in the high 4% range were nice while they lasted, rates in the low 5% range are nothing to complain about either, especially with the home purchase season fast approaching.
The monthly unemployment report was released today and the results were worse than expected. In total it is estimated that 524,000 jobs were lost in December. Economists were expecting job losses to be closer to 500,000 for December. On top of that the numbers for October and November were also revised to show larger losses than were first reported. The unemployment rate has jumped up to 7.2% which is the highest it has been in 16 years.
One bright spot in all of this bad news is that mortgage rates remain at all time lows. This should help a lot of borrowers to free up some money by refinancing their mortgage into lower monthly payments.
Another factor keeping mortgage rates at these historic levels is the fact that the Federal Reserve has begun their program of purchasing Agency Mortgage Backed Securities in an effort to keep rates low. So far it has worked as rates have been available in the 4s at times this week.