2020 Conforming Loan Limits

The Federal Housing Finance Agency approved a higher conforming loan limit that will take effect Jan. 1, 2020. The cap on loans purchased or acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during 2020 will increase to $510,400, the FHFA said Tuesday. That marks an increase over the $484,350 limit for 2019.

Higher limits are available for properties that contain two, three, or four units. The limits for multiunit properties range from $653,550 to $981,700.

View a map showing the 2020 maximum loan limits nationwide. (Note: El Dorado County, CA. is $530,001 to $765,599 for 1 – 4 units)

Source: FHFA and “Conforming Loan Limit Increased to $510,400,” Mortgage News Daily (Nov. 26, 2019)

Mortgage Prepayments Climb

Mortgage prepayments, a common gauge for housing and refinancing demand, jumped to its highest level since May 2013—a good sign for the market, according to a new analysis from data and analystics firm Black Knight. Mortgage prepayments were at 1.81% in October, more than double the figure a year ago. That represents a 134% year-over-year increase, Black Knight reports.

What’s causing the improvement? Low mortgage rates are prompting more people to refinance their mortgage or buy a home. Consumers typically pay off previous loans when they buy a new home.The uptick is apparent: Existing-home sales increased 1.9% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million—4.6% higher than a year ago, the National Association of REALTORS® reported last week.

Source: “Mortgage Prepays Surge to 6-Year High, Black Knight Says,” HousingWire (Nov. 25, 2019)

Home Loan Interest Rates Rise

“The modest uptick in mortgage rates over the last two months reflects declining recession fears and a more sanguine outlook for the global economy,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Due to the improved economic outlook, purchase mortgage applications rose fifteen percent over the same week a year ago, the second highest weekly increase in the last two years. Given the important role residential real estate plays in the economy, the steady improvement of the housing market is a reassuring sign that the economy is on solid ground heading into next year.”

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.75%, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 3.69% average. Last year at this time, they averaged 4.94%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.2%, with an average 0.5 point, rising rom last week’s 3.13% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.36%.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.44%, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 3.39% average. A year ago, they averaged 4.14%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Interest Rates ‘Lowest Since 2016’

For the seventh time in the last nine weeks, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped, reaching the lowest average since November 2016, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.

“Through late June, home purchase applications improved by five percentage points compared to the previous month. In the near term, we expect the housing market to continue to improve from both a sales and price perspective says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 27:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.73%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.84% average. Last year at this time, it’s rates averaged 4.55%
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.16%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.25% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.04%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Are Mortgage Rates Stabilizing?

Mortgage rates mostly held steady this week—and home buyers responded by rushing to lock in rates. “Mortgage rates stabilized the last couple of months as interest rate-sensitive sectors, such as new auto and home sales, have clearly softened the outlook for the economy,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac report for the week ending Nov. 29:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.81 percent, with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.90 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.25 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.24 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.30 percent.

More Buyers Turn to ARM Loans

Rising interest rates are prompting more home buyers to turn to adjustable-rate mortgages—which come with potential financial risks. Though these mortgages typically come with lower interest rates initially, they reset to market rates after five or seven years, potentially shocking borrowers with much higher costs.

“As interest rates continue to rise, the percentage of adjustable-rate mortgages is increasing, as home buyers are looking to take advantage of the best rates from their lenders,” says Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae.

Source: “Ellie Mae Origination Insights Report: October 2018,” Ellie Mae (Nov. 21, 2018)

Relief in Cooling Housing Market?

The housing market is showing several signs of slowing, providing a much-needed break for potential buyers who have been waiting to jump into the market. Existing-home sales were 2.4 percent lower in the third quarter than a year ago, and the drop comes at a time when many areas are starting to see an uptick in new listings.

Home prices in many markets are no longer rising by double digits—or even single digits—annually. But with a strong economy and low unemployment, the housing dip is more of a rebalancing of the market than a sign of a downturn.

Source: “Cooling Down of Housing Market Could Be Good News for Buyers,” The Washington Post (Nov. 14, 2018)

Homes with Patios now Popular

More new homes are being built with patios, as homeowners show a greater craving for more outdoor space. About 58.6 percent of new single-family homes started in 2017 included a patio, according to an analysis by the National Association of Home Builders. That makes patios more common than decks (23.8 percent), but still shy of the popularity of porches (64.7 percent).

The Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs, shows that the average size of a patio on a new home is about 260 square feet. Poured concrete is the most often material used for the surface, followed by concrete pavers, natural stone, and brick pavers.

Read more ideas about getting the most out of a patio space: That Small Backyard Can Still Be a Selling Point and 5 Biggest Yard and Patio Staging Mistakes

Why Home Buyers Need to Hurry

While there have been signs recently that the market may be shifting toward the favor of home buyers, prices are still on the rise in many areas around the country. The median sales price in July was $230,411, up 5.8 percent year over year.

The typical mortgage payment jumped 13.1 percent over that same one-year period, due to a nearly 0.6 percentage point increase in mortgage rates, according to new data from CoreLogic, a real estate research firm.

Rates are expected to increase by about 0.43 percentage points between July 2018 and July 2019. Housing forecasters predict median home sale prices to continue to rise by 1.8 percent in real terms over that same period.

With these projections, CoreLogic researchers predict the inflation-adjusted typical monthly mortgage payment to rise from $937 in July 2018 to $1,003 by July 2019.

Source: “Homebuyers’ ‘Typical Mortgage Payment’ Rising at Twice the Rate of Prices,” CoreLogic Insights Blog (Oct. 17, 2018)

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.