Mortgage Rates Inch Up, But ‘Don’t Be Worried’

After weeks of moderating, mortgage rates moved up slightly this week. But aspiring home buyers may be able to breathe a sigh of relief: Freddie Mac economists revised their forecasts this week to predict 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to average below the 5 percent threshold for at least the next two years. “However, softening house price appreciation along with increasing inventory of homes on the market and historically low mortgage rates should give a boost to the spring home buying season,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The following are the national averages for the week ending Jan. 31:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.46 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.45 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.22 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.89 percent, with an average 0.4 point, increasing from last week’s 3.88 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.68 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Hackers Access Data on Loans

Banks are in the process of trying to identify the customers affected and inform them of any possible account hacking.

“These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history, and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report,” says security researcher Bob Diachenko, who discovered this.

Consumers are urged to change the passwords on their financial accounts. The database itself that was hacked was not password protected, but in the data theft, hackers may have gained access to personal information that hackers could then use to access a person’s other accounts.

Source: “Fraud Alert: Your Mortgage Info Could Be at Risk,” USA Today (Jan. 23, 2019) and “Document Management Company Left Credit Reports Online,” SecurityDiscovery.com (Jan. 23, 2019)

‘Dual Agency’ Interests Concerns

Consumers are confused when it comes to dual agency arrangements in real estate, according to a new report from the Consumer Federation of America that reflects results of consumer survey and a mystery shopper survey of real estate agents.

“Today, many home buyers and sellers do not know whether their agent is representing their interests, those of the other party, or those of neither,” says Stephen Brobeck, a CFA senior fellow and report author. “Given the huge expenditure of a home purchase and the conflict of financial interests between seller and buyer, it is important that consumers know who their real estate agent is actually representing.”

States have laws requiring real estate interests and relationships to be disclosed to clients. But the CFA report suggests the laws may not be sufficient. The report says that the laws typically define agent roles as “agent,” “subagent,” “transactional agent,” “designated agent,” and “dual agent”—words consumers say they do not understand.

The CFA report calls for reforms including the prohibition of dual agency. Eight states currently ban the practice. Also, the report calls for clearer written and verbal communications from the real estate professional to the consumer about whether the agent will function as a fiduciary agent, subagent, or transaction agent or facilitator and what exactly that will mean to them.

Loan Rates Fall to 9-Month Lows

Mortgage rates posted more drops this week, lowering the borrowing costs of potential home shoppers and refinancers. “Lower mortgage rates combined with continued income growth and lower energy prices are all positive indicators for consumers that should lead to a firming of home sales,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Jan. 10:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.45 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.51 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.99 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.89 percent, with an average 0.4 point, dropping from last week’s 3.99 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.44 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Here Comes a Buyer’s Market

A power shift is occurring in the housing market with more negotiating power landing on the buyer’s side.

The National Association of REALTORS® recently reported an uptick in inventory entering more markets as more homeowners put their homes up for sale. Plus, buyers are having more choice, prompting some sellers to lower their asking prices due to the added competition, according to CoreLogic researchers.

“Given the 17 million more jobs now compared to the turn of the century, home sales are clearly under performing today,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “That also means there is a steady longer-term growth potential.”

Holiday Gift: ‘Low Mortgage Rates’

Mortgage rates moderated this week after posting a big drop last week, and the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday to raise its short-term key interest rate hasn’t had much on an effect on rates. (The Fed’s key rate is not directly tied to mortgage rates, but does often influence it.) Now’s the time to start a loan and home search.

Freddie Mac report of mortgage rates for the week ending Dec. 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.62 percent, with an average 0.4 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 4.63 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.94 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.07 percent, with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.38 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.98 percent, with an average 0.3 point, falling from last week’s 4.04 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.39 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

A ‘Welcome Sign’ for Housing!

For the second consecutive month, existing-home sales rose, as three of the four major U.S. regions saw an increase in sales last month, the National Association of REALTORS® reported 12/19/18.

“The market conditions in November were mixed, with good signs of stabilizing home sales compared to recent months, though down significantly from one year ago,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Rising inventory is clearly taming home price appreciation.”

For a closer look at some of the leading indicators in existing-home sales in November, visit details and chart at: National Association of REALTORS®

FHA Raises Loan Limits for 2019

The Federal Housing Administration has announced that most of the country will see an increase to loan limits in the new year. The loan limit for lower-cost areas will be set at $314,827—or 65 percent of the national conforming loan limit of $484,350. In high-cost areas, the new FHA limit for 2019 will increase to $726,525, up from $679,650. The new loan limits will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Source: “FHA Loan Limits to Increase in Most of U.S. in 2019,” HousingWire (12/14/18)

Fannie, Freddie’s ‘Holiday Gift’

No Foreclosures! Mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced a nationwide suspension of eviction lockouts on foreclosures for the holiday season. The foreclosure moratorium will last from Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, 2019, and applies to all foreclosed occupied homes owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The moratorium, however, does not apply to other pre- or post-foreclosure activities. Legal and administrative proceedings for evictions can continue, but families will be able to remain in their home during the holiday moratorium.

Source: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

California Passes Solar Panel Law

Starting in 2020, all new homes constructed in California will be required to have between 2 kilowatts and 3 kilowatts of electricity sourced directly from solar panels. State legislators, whom have been considering such a measure for some time, officially voted recently to amend state building codes.

The new mandate, however, won’t be cheap to homeowners. The upfront costs of installing typical solar panels ranges from $8,000 to $12,000. The timing of the move also worries residents who lost their homes in recent wildfires in California because the mandate will add to their rebuilding costs.