Zero-Down Home Loan Program

A new effort is underway to raise the low rate of home ownership among under served groups of home buyers. The Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America is hosting several events across the country, helping borrowers with low credit scores to apply for 15- or 30-year mortgages with cheaper interest rates.

NACA CEO Bruce Marks told CNBC. “There have been zero foreclosures among the loans that we’ve originated in the past six years.”

Borrowers are required to go through an education session about the program, as well as counseling for budget planning to make sure they can afford a mortgage payment. They also must still submit all necessary documents, such as income statements amd phone bills. The program serves only those who are buying a primary residence, not an investment property.

Foreclosures Sink to 13-Year Low

Foreclosures are disappearing from most community listings. Foreclosure filings—default notices, scheduled auctions, or bank repossessions—fell 6 percent in the third quarter, dropping to the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2005. Foreclosure activity in the third quarter is now 36 percent below the pre-recession average of 278,912 properties with foreclosure filings, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ latest report.

Properties that were foreclosed in the third quarter are seeing a slightly shorter process. The foreclosure process is averaging 713 days, which is down from 899 days a year ago. The states with the longest average timelines for foreclosed homes are Hawaii (1,491 days); Indiana (1,295 days); Florida (1,177 days); Utah (1,170 days); New Jersey (1,137 days); and New York (1,092 days).

Buyers Should ‘Ask After a Home Inspection’

After an inspector has finished a home report, buyers may feel overwhelmed by any flaws that might have been found. That’s why it’s important they take the opportunity to learn more so that they can move forward confidently in the transaction.

A recent article at realtor.com® recommends home buyers ask their inspector clarifying questions like: “I don’t understand this; what does it mean?” or “Is this a major or minor problem?” and “Do I need to call in another expert for a follow-up?”

If the inspector identifies a potentially major problem, consumers will want to follow up whether they should call an additional expert in to investigate further. For example, consumers may need to bring in an electrician to take a closer look at potential electrical issues that were flagged or a roofer if a roofing problem is suspected. Those specialists can then give an idea of the cost to fix it, which the real estate agent can take to the seller to request a concession, if the seller doesn’t want to fix it prior to the sale.

Source: “Home Inspection’s Complete? Here’s What You Must Ask Afterward,” realtor.com® (Oct. 9, 2018)

Home Loan Interest Rates ‘Drop Slightly’

Borrowers saw a slight cool down in mortgage rates this week following last week’s seven-year high. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped for the first time after five consecutive weeks of increases.

“The strength in the economy has failed to translate to gains in the housing market as higher mortgage rates have contributed to the decrease in home purchase applications, which are down from a year ago,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “With mortgage rates expected to track higher, it’s going to be a challenge for the housing market to regain momentum.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Oct. 4:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.71 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling slightly from last week’s 4.72 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.85 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.15 percent, with an average 0.4 point, decreasing from last week’s 4.16 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.15 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Market Shifting to Home Buyers’ Favor

A housing market defined by rapidly rising home prices, bidding wars, a lack of inventory, and sellers with the upper hand in negotiations may be changing. “The signs are pointing to a market that’s shifting toward buyers,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “But in most places, we’re still a long way from a full reversal.”

After all, home sales aren’t exactly tanking. Prices for existing homes were up 4.6 percent from a year ago in the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report. The median home list price in August was up 7 percent from last year.

While these numbers are still higher than last year, economists point to a slowing growth in the percentage jumps. Last year, median home list prices increased by 10 percent from the previous year and by 9 percent the year before that.

Home Loan Interest Rates Keep Increasing

For the fourth consecutive week, mortgage rates continued to climb as home buyers face higher borrowing costs. But, mortgage applications for home purchases have managed to increase.

“Mortgage rates are drifting upwards again and represent continued affordability challenges for prospective buyers—especially first-time buyers,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Borrowing costs are moving right now for three main reasons: the very strong economy, higher U.S. government debt issuances, and global trade tensions.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.65 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.6 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.83 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.11 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 4.06 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.13 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Labor Shortages Push Up Construction Costs

Builders are being forced to raise home prices and are having a more difficult time meeting project deadlines because of the ongoing labor shortage in the construction industry, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Eighty-four percent of builders say they have had to pay higher wages to subcontractor bids, 83 percent say they have had to raise home prices, and 73 percent say they can’t complete projects on time without more manpower. The number of builders reporting labor and subcontractor shortages reached a record high in July.

“The steepest upward trend has been in the share of builders saying the labor/subcontractor shortages are causing higher home prices, which increased by 22 percentage points between 2015 and 2018—to the point where it is now nearly tied with higher wages/sub bids as the most widespread effect of the shortages,” NAHB reports on its Eye on Housing blog. The survey also shows other effects of the labor shortage, such as builders saying that, in some cases, they’ve been forced to turn down projects.

Source: “Housing Market Index (HMI),” National Association of Home Builders/Eye on Housing (September 2018)

Home Loan Interest Rates Inch Up

Mortgage rates rose slightly for the second consecutive week, and economists warn that more rises are likely to come. Mortgage rates are now up three-quarters of a percentage point from last year.

“Borrowing costs may be slowly on the rise again in coming weeks, as investors remain optimistic about the underlying strength of the economy,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. Home prices have been rising too—although at a slower pace recently—but are still “outrunning rising inflation and incomes,” Khater notes. “The weakening in affordability is hindering many interested buyers this fall, even as the robust economy brings them into the market.”

Freddie Mac reports the following averages for the week ending Sept. 6:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.54 percent, with an average 0.5 point for the week, increasing from last week’s 4.52 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.78 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.99 percent, with an average 0.4 point, increasing from last week’s 3.97 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.08 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Home Loan Approval with a Lower Credit Score

New mortgages are being approved with lower credit scores, and FHA loans appear to be leading the shift, according to studies by credit developer FICO and other entities. “As we get further away from the Great Recession, underwriting criteria seems to have eased, and a broader section of consumers are obtaining mortgages as a result,” according to FICO’s report.

From January to March of this year, borrowers who were approved for FHA loans—which offer low down payment options for first-time home buyers—had an average credit score of 672, according to FHA data. During that same period in 2011, the average credit score for an FHA borrower was 701. FHA borrowers also have had higher debt-to-income ratios in recent years. Debt-to-income ratios measure monthly household income against other debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans.

Mortgage Interest Rates ‘Mostly Holding Steady’

Mortgage rates haven’t been this stable since the fall of 2016. Rates did inch up this week, but only slightly and are still offering prospective buyers a window of opportunity, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The recent slowdown in price appreciation in several markets, mixed with these steady mortgage rates, is “good news” for many prospective buyers who may have been priced out earlier this year. “Given the strength of the economy, it is possible for home sales to pick up even more before year’s end,” Khater says. “The key factor will be if affordably priced inventory increases enough to continue this recent trend of cooling price appreciation.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 30:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.51 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.82 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.97 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.98 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.12 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Tick Up,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 30, 2018)