Don’t Panic Over Stock Market Mayhem

The housing market likely won’t be deeply affected by the sharp decline in stocks over the last two days because underlying economic fundamentals remain strong, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. Jobs are being created, workers are seeing wage gains, and there’s no recession on the horizon.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell by more than 4 percent Monday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined nearly 5 percent. As of late Tuesday, the S&P was down by almost 1.2 percent since the first of the year, although that comes after a year of double-digit gains.

One metric to watch is long-term bond rates, which historically have gone up as stocks go down. That link, however, hasn’t been as strong in the past few years. Investors tend to increase demand in bonds as an alternative to stocks, driving up yields, which can lead to higher mortgage rates. Since the start of the year, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage has risen, from 3.95 percent to 4.22 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That’s still low by historical standards.

—REALTOR® Magazine

Short Sale process “Cut in Half”

Short sales are getting much shorter, Freddie Mac says. The mortgage giant launched a Freddie Mac Standard Short Sale program on Nov. 1 that sought to speed up the short sale process and make it easier and more transparent. 

“We estimate that the time to complete a short sale will decrease by approximately 50 percent to 75 percent,” as a result of the changes, writes Tracy Mooney, Freddie Mac’s EVP in a recent blog post.

Among the changes that took effect Nov. 1, 2012: 

  • Mortgage servicers have 30 days to make a decision on a short sale once they receive an application. If they need to negotiate with a third party, they have 30 additional days. A final decision on the short sale must be made within 60 days. 
  • Mortgage servicers are required to acknowledge they received the short sale application within three days of submission. Servicers must provide weekly status updates if they end up needing more time to review the application past the initial 30-day period.
  • Mortgage servicers have authority now to approve short sales when qualifying financial hardships for home owners who are past due or current on their mortgage payments. 
  • Mortgage servicers are also now able to approve short sales without seeking a separate review by the mortgage insurance company.
  • Following a short sale, home owners may be able to qualify for up to $3,000 in relocation assistance. 

Source: “The Shorter Short Sale: Long on Borrower Benefits,” Freddie Mac Executive Perspectives Blog (Jan. 22, 2013)