Home Buyers Don’t Grasp ‘Mortgage Basics’

Many Americans begin looking for a home to buy without understanding the fundamentals of applying for a mortgage or what it takes to qualify for one, according to a new survey by Ally Home, a direct-to-consumer mortgage business.

Ninety-two percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults who responded to the survey admit they don’t know how much mortgage they can afford. Further, most say they’re confused about “rates” versus “points,” and only a third have a general idea of what their average closing costs might be. Only 8 percent are aware that the maximum debt-to-income ratio is usually 43 percent; most respondents believe it’s significantly lower or don’t know at all.

Ally Home is touting its free Mortgage Playbook, a resource that covers the basics of applying for a home loan. The book uses sports jargon to outline the mortgage application process, covering topics such as how to improve your financial fitness prior to applying for a loan, how to evaluate rate and points options, and how loan rates are determined.

Source: Ally Financial

Mortgage Rates Ring in New Year With a Dip

Borrowers kicked off 2018 with a mortgage rate drop.  The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now down a quarter of a percentage point from a year ago.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell four basis points from a week ago to 3.95 percent in the year’s first survey. Despite increases in short-term interest rates, long-term interest rates remain subdued.”  says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.95 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.99 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.20 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.38 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.44 percent average. A year ago, 15-year ARMs averaged 3.44 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Home Loan Interest Rates Up Slightly This Week

“Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates have been bouncing around in a narrow 10 basis points range since October,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The U.S. average 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased 1 basis point to 3.94 percent in this week’s survey. The majority of our survey was completed prior to the surge in long-term interest rates that followed the passage of the tax bill. If those rate increases stick, we’ll likely see higher mortgage rates in next week’s survey.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 21:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.94 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.93 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year-rates averaged 4.30 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.38 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.36 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.52 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Despite Fed Move, Mortgage Rates Hold Steady

Great News!  Mortgage rates were in a holding pattern this week, even after the Federal Reserve voted Wednesday to hike its benchmark interest rate.

“As widely expected, the Fed increased the federal funds target rate this week for the third time in 2017,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “The market had already priced in the rate hike, so long-term interest rates—including mortgage rates—hardly moved.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 14:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.93 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.94 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.16 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.36 percent, with an average 0.5 point, the same as last week. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.37 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Hot Home Trend: Bamboo Everything!

Bamboo is making its way into more home interiors. From flooring, window treatments to wall accents, furnishings and more, this sustainable material is popping up everywhere.

Some designers are making bamboo their go-to material, which RISMedia recently highlighted in the article “4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Décor by Storm.”

Bamboo is widely available and more affordable than many other wood products. Bamboo is traditionally considered a type of wood flooring, but it’s actually not a wood at all, but a grass. And at growth rates of three to five feet per year, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, which means it’s widely available for spicing up interiors.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Mortgage Interest Rates Climb This Week

Rates are increasing, but home buyers can still snag an interest rate that is lower than a year ago.

“The 30-year mortgage rate has been bouncing around in a 10 basis point range since September. While long-term rates have been relatively steady week-to-week, shorter term interest rates have been on the rise. The spread between the 30-year fixed mortgage and the 5/1 Hybrid ARM rate was 59 basis points this week, down 43 basis points from earlier this year. With a narrower spread between fixed and adjustable mortgage rates, more borrowers are opting for a fixed product.” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 7:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.94 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.90 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.13 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.36 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.30 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.36 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Housing Trend to Watch: The ‘Surban’

Suburban and urban areas are combining to create a new kind of living style known as the “surban.” Many in the real estate industry are predicting it to be one of the hottest housing trends to watch heading into the new year.

A surban offers greater walkability to retail and restaurants from a home or apartment, but in a suburban area. It’s a blend of both suburbia and city life. Previously, urban planners dubbed these areas “mixed-use.”

The Urban Land Institute estimates that surban areas will draw at least 80 percent of new households and attract the most families over the next decade.

Source: “2018 Real Estate Trends to Watch: ‘Surban’—That Sweet Spot Between City and Suburb,” RISMedia (Dec. 4, 2017)

Home Loan Rates Sink Lower This Week

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is averaging lower than it did a year ago, and remains well below the 4 percent threshold this week.

“The market implied probability of a Fed rate hike in December neared 100 percent, helping to drive short term interest rates higher,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, decreasing from last week’s 3.92 percent average. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.08 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.30 percent, with an average 0.5, down from last week’s 3.32 percent. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.34 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

FHFA Raises Conforming Home Loan Limits

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced it will raise its conforming loan limit on Jan. 1, 2018. Mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages in most parts of the U.S. to be $453,100.  “El Dorado County, CA.” will be $517,500.

For 10 years, the FHFA had set the conforming loan limit in most places at $417,000. But as home prices started rising, the FHFA bumped up the conforming loan limit in 2017 to $424,100. As prices continued to move higher this year, the FHFA has raised limits again for 2018.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act requires the conforming loan limit of the government-sponsored entities to be adjusted each year to reflect any changes in the average U.S. home price.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

New Homes Are Getting Smaller

Developers are continuing to shrink the size of new single-family homes, according third-quarter housing data compiled by the National Association of Home Builders. The median square footage of a single-family home was 2,378 square feet in the third quarter.

In the years following the Great Recession, builders were focused on the higher end of the market, catering to larger-sized homes. But more recently, builders have renewed their focus on the entry-level market, and NAHB predicts square footage of new homes to continue to decrease.

“Typical new-home size falls prior to and during a recession, as home buyers tighten budgets, and then sizes rise as high-end home buyers, who face fewer credit constraints, return to the housing market in relatively greater proportions,” NAHB explains at its Eye on Housing blog. “This pattern was exacerbated during the current business cycle due to the market weakness among first-time home buyers. But the recent declines in size indicate that this part of the cycle has ended, and the size will trend lower as builders add more entry-level homes into inventory.”

Source: “Declining New Home Size Trend Continues,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Nov. 17, 2017)