Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Accept 3% Down Payment Mortgages

21 10 2014

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are close to allowing consumers to buy a home with as little as a 3 percent down payment and still have the mortgages backed by the two agencies.

More details are expected to be announced in coming weeks, but the move from a 5 percent down payment could increase the ability of creditworthy but cash–strapped consumers to become homeowners and help a faltering housing market regain its traction. Both agencies at one point had accepted 3 percent down payments. Fannie Mae stopped accepting loans with 3 percent down payments last year, while Freddie Mac stopped accepting them in June 2011.

“Through these revised guidelines, we believe that the enterprises will be able to responsibly serve a targeted segment of creditworthy borrowers with lower down payment mortgages by taking into account compensating factors,” said Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie and Freddie’s overseer, during a speech Monday at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas. “It is yet another much-needed piece to the broader access-to-credit puzzle.”

Watt also announced other policy initiatives to make lenders more comfortable with the federal government’s mortgage purchase guidelines in the hope it will loosen their purse strings.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Dan Gjeldum, a senior vice president at mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate. “It will dramatically reduce the expense for a first-time homebuyer. The easier it is to do business with the agency, the easier it’s going to be for consumers to work with mortgage companies.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not originate mortgages directly to homebuyers. Instead, lenders sell mortgages that meet certain criteria to the two agencies, which in turn package them into securities and sell them to investors. The investments are guaranteed, which means that investors recoup losses if the homeowner defaults. Fannie and Freddie can force lenders to repurchase bad loans.

The upshot of those assurances is a more cautious lending environment that is leaving some would-be buyers on the sidelines.

Watt said Monday the FHFA was taking steps to clarify the circumstances under which Fannie and Freddie could force a lender to repurchase a loan, in an effort to reduce lender confusion. “I hope our actions provide sufficient certainty to enable your companies to reassess existing credit overlays and more aggressively make responsible loans available to creditworthy borrowers,” Watt said in prepared remarks distributed by the FHFA.

In its most recent report, the FHFA said the average FICO credit score of borrowers was 744 for Fannie Mae and 742 for Freddie Mac, lower than at the end of 2013. FICO scores range from 300 to 850.

Borrowers who put down less than 20 percent on a home purchase typically pay mortgage insurance that continues until their equity in the home reaches 20 percent. Reducing the down payment requirement to 3 percent from 5 percent will require a longer period of mortgage insurance and benefit mortgage insurance providers.

Homebuyers with lesser credit scores and smaller down payments traditionally flocked to mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration that required down payments of only 3.5 percent. However, to aid the agency’s finances, the upfront fees and monthly insurance premiums associated with those loans have increased, reducing demand for them and keeping more first-time buyers on the sidelines.

Watt’s announcement is the latest step in the federal government’s effort to continue a housing market recovery that has stagnated lately, confounding industry watchers. Last month, Fannie Mae shortened the waiting period that homeowners who have gone through a bankruptcy, a foreclosure or a short sale must wait before they can again purchase a home.

Addressing the convention earlier Monday, David Stevens, president and CEO of the mortgage bankers, noted that 2014 purchase loan originations are expected to be more than 10 percent below last year’s level.

Even billionaire Warren Buffett has recently weighed in on the market’s malaise, saying he didn’t understand why low interest rates and economic improvement weren’t fueling a housing market recovery. “You would think that people would be lining up now to get mortgages to buy a home,” he said at a conference this month.

At one point, there was speculation that the average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage would hit 5 percent by year’s end, but analysts now think that threshold won’t be hit until halfway through 2015. Last week, the average fixed interest rate on a 30-year mortgage was 3.97 percent, the lowest it’s been since June 2013.

However, most consumers rarely see rates that low because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as extra-cautious lenders, tack on credit overlays tied to consumers’ down payment amounts and credit scores.

“Mortgages are still tough to get,” said Pradeep Shukla, president of the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors. “Lenders are still extra cautious. On the whole, what is most important is consumer confidence and that is still lacking.”

Source: Chicago Tribune

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Residential Real Estate Price Growth is Strongest Since 2005

4 02 2014

Home prices — both nationwide and in Jacksonville — are on the rise, according to a report from CoreLogic.

Across the United States, home prices have increased 11 percent from December 2012 to December 2013, including distressed sales.

The CoreLogic Home Price Index report on Tuesday reported the 22nd consecutive monthly year-over-year increase in US home prices based on Multiple Listing Service data.

In Jacksonville, home prices increased 9 percent including distressed sales and 11.5 percent when distressed sales are excluded, on a year-over-year basis.

Sales jumped 1.5 percent from November to December.

The CoreLogic report follows a report from RealtyShack showing an increase in home flipping.

See the full CoreLogic report here.

Source: CoreLogic and Jacksonville Business Journal





Florida’s Residential Real Estate Recovery on Strong Footing

12 02 2013

Closed sales, pending sales and median prices all rose in Florida in 2012, while the inventory of homes for sale shrank compared with 2011, Florida Realtors reported.

“Throughout 2012, we’ve seen increasingly strong signs that the state’s housing market is in solid recovery,” 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher said in a news release.

Asher, broker and owner of Don Asher & Associates in Orlando, said several factors are spurring the recovery forward, including strong job creation and low interest rates on mortgages.

“These positive fundamentals in the housing sector continue to attract potential homeowners and investors; however, they’re facing a limited inventory of available for-sale homes in many areas,” he said.

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 204,414 in 2012, up 8.5 percent from 2011, according to data from Florida Realtors’ industry data and analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards and associations.

In the fourth quarter, closed sales of single-family existing homes totaled 52,624, up 21.2 percent from the same time a year ago. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Pending sales, contracts that are signed but not closed, for existing single-family homes rose 17.6 percent in 2012 from 2011’s figure. The statewide median sale price for single-family existing homes in 2012 was $145,000, up 9 percent from the previous year.

Looking at the fourth quarter of 2012, the statewide single-family, existing-home median price was $150,000, up 11.1 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the preliminary national median sale price for existing single-family homes for all of 2012 was $176,600, up 6.3 percent from 2011, which was the strongest annual price gain since 2005.

In California, the statewide median sale price for single-family existing homes for 2012 was a preliminary $319,340; in Massachusetts it was $298,000; in New York it was $215,000; and in Illinois it was $139,000.

The median is the midpoint, with half the homes selling for more and half for less. Housing industry analysts note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties distort the median price down because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes, according to the release.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouses and condos, a total of 101,876 units sold statewide in 2012, up 2 percent from 2011. Pending sales for townhouses and condos for the year increased 6.2 percent from 2011.

The statewide median sale price for townhouse and condo properties in 2012 was $106,000, up 17.8 percent over the previous year. In the fourth quarter, closed sales of townhouses and condos totaled 24,743, up 14.3 percent from the same time a year ago. Pending sales of townhomes and condos rose 21.6 percent over the same quarter a year ago.

The statewide median price for townhomes and condos in the fourth quarter was $111,900, up 24.3 percent year-to-year.

The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5.5-months’ supply for the fourth quarter and inventory for townhouses and condos was at a six-months’ supply for the same period, according to Florida Realtors.

“To an extent, we have seen these numbers before in monthly reports, but it’s often good to step back and look at the statistics from a more aggregated level,” Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo said. “They clearly show the robustness of Florida’s housing recovery in sales and the beginnings of what we see as a sustained growth in prices. Of particular interest is the growth in cash sales. This is indicative of the growing interest of investors and foreign buyers in Florida real estate, but also points to the difficulties presented by the current financing climate that households wishing to buy face.”

The interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.66 percent for 2012, down from the previous year’s average of 4.45 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

Source: South Florida Business Journal





U.S. Home Prices Rose Last Year By Most in 6.5 Years

6 02 2013

U.S. home prices jumped by the most in 6 1/2 years in December, spurred by a low supply of available homes and rising demand.

Home prices rose 8.3 percent in December compared with a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from CoreLogic, a real estate data provider. That is the biggest annual gain since May 2006. Prices rose last year in 46 of 50 states.

Home prices also increased 0.4 percent in December from the previous month. That’s a healthy increase given that sales usually slow over the winter months.

Steady increases in prices are helping fuel the housing recovery. They’re encouraging some people to sell homes and enticing would-be buyers to purchase homes before prices rise further.

Higher prices can also make homeowners feel wealthier. That can encourage more consumer spending.

Most economists expect prices to keep rising this year. Sales of previously occupied homes reached their highest level in five years in 2012 and will likely keep growing. Homebuilders, encouraged by rising interest from customers, broke ground on the most new homes and apartments in four years last year.

Ultra-low mortgage rates and steady job gains have fueled more demand for houses and apartments. More people are moving out into their own homes after doubling up with friends and relatives in the recession.

At the same time, the number of previously occupied homes for sale has fallen to the lowest level in 11 years.

“All signals point to a continued improvement in the fundamentals underpinning the U.S. housing market recovery,” said Anand Nallathambi, CEO of CoreLogic.

The states with the biggest price gains were Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, California and Hawaii. The four states where prices fell were Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The housing recovery is also boosting job creation. Construction companies have added 98,000 jobs in the past four months, the best hiring spree since the bubble burst in 2006. Economists forecast even more could be added this year.

Housing has been a leading driver of past recoveries. But the bursting of the housing bubble pushed a flood of foreclosed homes on the market at low prices. That made it hard for builders to compete.

And a collapse in home prices left millions of homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their houses were worth. That made it difficult to sell.

Now, six years after the bubble burst, those barriers are fading. Some economists forecast that housing could add a point or more to economic growth this year.

Source: The Associated Press





Housing Affordability Index Rose to Record Level in Past Two Decades

23 02 2012

Nationwide housing affordability, as measured by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), rose to the highest percentage recorded in the 20-year history of the index during the fourth quarter of 2011. However, prospective homebuyers continued to have trouble qualifying for a mortgage thanks to tighter credit standards and a soft economy.

HOI data released last week indicates that 75.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200, the highest percentage recorded in the 20-year history of the index.

“While today’s report indicates that homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for more than two decades, overly restrictive lending conditions confronting homebuyers and builders remain significant obstacles to many potential homes sales, even with interest rates at historically low levels,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.

In Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, Pa. – the most affordable major housing market in the country during the fourth quarter – 95.1 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to households earning the area’s median family income of $54,900.

Also ranking at the top of the most affordable major housing markets, in descending order were Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; Modesto, Calif.; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Toledo, Ohio.

Among smaller housing markets, the most affordable was Kokomo, Ind., where 99.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2011 were affordable to families earning the median income of $59,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index included Fairbanks, Alaska; Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.; Lima, Ohio; and Rockford, Ill.

In New York-White Plain-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. – the least affordable major housing market during 2011’s fourth quarter – 29.0 percent of all homes sold were affordable to those earning the area’s median income of $67,400. It’s the 15th consecutive quarter in which the New York metropolitan division held the position.

Other major metro areas at the bottom of the affordability index included Honolulu; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., respectively.

Ocean City, N.J., where 47.5 percent of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $70,100, was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter. Other small metro areas ranking near the bottom included Laredo, Texas; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; and Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas.

Source: National Association of Home Builders





2011 Housing Market: A Year in Review

26 12 2011

Ring out the old and ring in the new! We have seen a lot of changes in Year 2011 in housing market. As we are gearing up to welcome 2012, here’s looking back at the top stories in housing market this year:

Record low morgage: Mortgage rates hit a record low of 3.94 percent this year. The lowest rates we have seen in years.
Once-in-a-generation time to buy: Homes sold for a fraction of their value five years ago, and excess inventory provided every buyer with a range of options. In some cities, homeownership became cheaper than renting. But job insecurities made buyers nervous to commit. Those who did found it difficult to get financing despite stellar credit scores. As a result, 2011 saw a real estate market with great deals, yet fewer buyers than needed. In 10 years, however, many Americans may look back on 2011 as the best time in a generation to invest in real estate-.
More homeownership: Most renters want to buy a home: 72 percent consider homeownership a good financial decision, and 64 percent believe the time is right, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2011 Housing Pulse survey.
The economy rebounded, sorta, kinda, a little: The Florida economy remained sluggish as unemployment rates stayed uncomfortably high and home sales stayed uncomfortably low; but, across the board, the state showed signs of recovery, with almost every economic indicator suggesting brighter days ahead.
Strong home sales: Home sales edged higher most months; selling prices held their own and, in a few cases, median selling prices rose. Floridians’ consumer confidence also rose toward the end of the year after bobbing around for most of the summer. Employment followed, and while the state has a long way to go to hit “normal,” it reached a 2011 level of “better than last year.”
Attractive commercial market: Florida investors increasingly want to buy office, retail and industrial properties. Vacancy rates, while high, have stabilized, along with rental rates. Core assets (essential to businesses) are selling and lenders – including the life insurance companies – are lending again. Banks are more realistic about prices for distressed properties, and 2012 should see the entry of more commercial tenants. “With modest economic growth and job creation, the fundamentals for commercial real estate should gradually improve in the coming year,” adds Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
Florida Legislature: We got Amendment 4 and scrapped the cap: Florida Realtors had a number of victories in the 2011 Florida Legislature, but none as important as a constitutional amendment voters will consider in November 2012, and none so hard-fought as a law to “scrap the cap” on Florida’s affordable housing trust funds. Amendment 4, if approved by Florida voters, will create a property tax increase cap of 5 percent each year on non-homestead real estate, down from the current 10 percent cap. It will also give some first-time homebuyers a property tax break that decreases over time. In 2012, Florida Realtors will roll out its “Yes on 4” campaign. In the “scrap the cap” victory, the Florida Legislature agreed to allow all doc stamps earmarked for the affordable housing Sadowski Trust Fund to actually go into the fund.
Fasten your seatbelts. Property insurance is a bumpy ride: Lawmakers wrestled with a question that has been around for years: Should property insurance be affordable or available? If affordable, a major storm could bankrupt the state. If widely available, the cost could drive buyers away and hurt current homeowners. Citizens Property Insurance, the state-owned insurer, sits squarely in the middle of the debate since it covers most of the high-risk properties and, should a major storm hit, would force all Floridians to help pay for damages. To attract private insurers to the state and cut down on the number of owners under Citizens, Gov. Scott and lawmakers made changes. Sinkhole coverage became optional and much more expensive. Citizens dropped about 7,500 coastal homes in early December, and policy costs and rules are set to become even stricter in 2012. The uneasy balance between affordable or available insurance shifted a bit closer to the “available” side.
HAMP, HARP, TARP do little for at-risk homeowners: Falling home values and risky mortgages caused more Florida owners to face foreclosure. The government created, and modified, a number of programs slated to help owners keep their homes, but most applied only to about half of those in trouble – owners who had mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Even then, however the carrots held out by HAMP, HARP, TARP and others didn’t entice lenders that feared principal cuts and long-term changes. The issue led to some strategic defaults – foreclosures where investors could afford to pay but walked away as a financial decision – court backups, and a system that allowed some non-paying owners to live in a home for over two years before authorities finally foreclosed. Analysts expect the problem to improve but continue in 2012.
Should we slow the recovery to avoid another crisis? U.S. regulators have conflicting goals: Speed the recovery but, at the same time, take steps to make sure it never happens again. Unfortunately, it hasn’t figured out how to do both. While the federal government has tried to spark home sales through a number of programs (see No. 7 above), it has also created obstacles to homeownership by boosting mortgage rules, tightening appraisal standards and restricting the amount homeowners can deduct from federal taxes. A key concern of Realtors heading into 2012 is the qualified residential mortgage (QRM) rule – a minimum standard that mortgage loans must meet before Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will consider buying them. Some lawmakers have suggested a 20 percent downpayment, a high standard that will force many buyers to wait years before they can afford homeownership. The discussion will continue in 2012.
2011 Realtors are different than 2005 Realtors: The skills needed to sell a house have changed. Realtors spend a lot more time talking to banks, trying to find out what’s happening with a client’s short sale; asking what paperwork they needed to file or re-file; and understanding new laws that oversee what they can do – and can’t do – when working with short-sale sellers. Realtors learned to accept disappointment – sales that fell apart at the last minute; appraisals that came in lower than hoped; and clients who wanted a bargain below any reasonable expectations.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!





Florida existing home and condo sales up in November

25 12 2011

Florida’s existing home and existing condo sales continued its positive upswing in November, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors. Existing home sales increased 11 percent last month with a total of 12,993 homes sold statewide compared to 11,664 homes sold in November 2010.

“It’s really clear that two things are happening in Florida real estate,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “No. 1, sales are moving upward – not by a large increase, but definitely, positively on an upward trend. Second, prices are stabilizing. Now, it doesn’t mean that prices have turned around but they are stabilizing, and that’s vital for the market to gain equilibrium.

“The more important factor is that sales are increasing and in large part, that’s due to lenders becoming more educated on how to deal with distressed properties more effectively and in a more timely manner – and that’s helping the Florida real estate markets recover.”

Seventeen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported higher existing home sales in November; 10 MSAs had higher existing condo sales.

The statewide median sales price for existing homes remained relatively flat last month at $130,100; a year ago, it was $130,600. According to analysts with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in October 2011 was $161,600, down 5.8 percent from the previous year, according to NAR. In California, the October statewide median resales price was $278,060; in Massachusetts, it was $275,000; in Maryland, it was $221,765; and in New York, it was $215,900.

In Florida’s year-to-year comparison for condos, 5,590 units sold statewide in November, a 2 percent gain over the 5,464 units sold in November 2010. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $86,700; a year earlier, it was $83,000 for a 4 percent increase. The national median existing condo sales price in October was $160,300, according to NAR.

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen encouraging reports of jobs growth and improvements in Florida’s economy,” said 2011 Florida Realtors President Patricia Fitzgerald, manager/broker-associate with Illustrated Properties in Hobe Sound and Mariner Sands Country Club in Stuart. “Mortgage rates have remained at record lows and home prices appear to be stabilizing in many local markets across the state – all positive signs for the housing recovery.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.99 percent in November, down from the 4.30 percent average during the same month a year earlier. Florida Realtors’ sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Related: NAR: Existing home sales continue to climb in November

Source: National Association of Realtors








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