Warning of Russian Cyberattacks to Private Homes

The U.S. and Britain have issued a warning about Russian cyberattacks that could extend to individual homes. The warning was the first of its kind, The New York Times reports. The warning extends to possible cyberattacks to government and private organizations in both countries as well.

The countries are asking the public to upgrade passwords and computer security to make themselves less vulnerable. U.S. and U.K. officials are warning that Russians are tapping into internet-connected devices in homes and businesses. Hackers allegedly could secretly inserting themselves into the exchange of data between a computer or server to eavesdrop, collect confidential information, misdirect payments, etc.

The officials said that the full extent of Russia’s ability to penetrate Western computer networks is still unknown.

More information at source: “U.S.-U.K. Warning on Cyberattacks Includes Private Homes,” The New York Times (April 16, 2018)

Seniors’ Growing Debt Casts Retirement Doubts

The percentage of families in which the head of household is 75 or older and carrying debt grew by 60 percent between 2007 and 2016, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of such families had debt; the average debt was $36,757. Meanwhile, the average monthly Social Security check is $1,404, and more than 40 percent of single adults receive more than 90 percent of their income from Social Security alone, according to government data. Many may find Social Security payouts aren’t sufficient to maintain their lifestyle and pay off debt.

“To pay off the debt, you’re going to have to give up some living standards,” says Craig Copeland, a senior associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute. For some homeowners, that may mean having to relocate to a place where the cost of living is less expensive. “They may be able to move into a retirement community, where there may be a better social aspect than living in a house in the suburbs with a bunch of young people,” Copeland says. “Or they may have to move in with a relative or friend to share living expenses.”

Source: “Growing Debt Among Older Americans Threatens Their Retirement,” CNBC (April 4, 2018)

‘Nonprime’ Loans Expand Mortgage Options

Subprime mortgages—which were blamed for sparking the last housing crisis—are reappearing, this time being dubbed “nonprime” loans. This lending option, which carries new quality standards, is growing for buyers who have damaged credit.

California-based Carrington Mortgage Services is one company expanding its nonprime loan offerings. “We believe there is actually a market today for people who want to buy nonprime loans that have been properly underwritten,” saysRick Sharga, of Carrington Mortgage Holdings, told CNBC.

Carrington Mortgage Services, which plans to manually underwrite each loan, will qualify borrowers with FICO credit scores as low as 500. The lender also will qualify borrowers who’ve had recent problems reported on their credit histories, such as a foreclosure, bankruptcy, or a history of late payments. But borrowers who are at higher risks will be required to make a bigger down payment, and the interest rate on the loan will be higher.

Other lenders also are getting into the nonprime space, including Angel Oak and Caliber Home Loans; more than 80 percent of Angel Oak loans are nonprime.

Source: “Subprime Mortgagees Make a Comeback—With a New Name and Soaring Demand,” CNBC (April 12, 2018)

Will ‘Granny Flats’ Resolve Housing Shortages?

Some housing economists believe that “granny flats” could be the key to alleviating housing shortages across the country, and they are calling on more municipalities to ease up the rules to allow such dwellings to be built on or into more single-family homes. Nicknamed “granny flats,” these accessory dwelling units tend to be separate, cottage-like structures, but may be a converted garage or basement that houses an extra living area.

In California, three new zoning laws in 2017 allowed for expanded development of granny flats. California has since seen a 63 percent increase in the number of building permits for these units—more than any other state, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm. But many counties either still have zoning restrictions that don’t allow these units, or they are making the building permit process difficult.

Source: “Could ‘Granny Flats’ Be the Solution to America’s Affordable-Housing Crisis?” MarketWatch (March 26, 2018)

Flood Insurance Premiums Are About to Go Up

Many homeowners and buyers in flood-prone areas will see higher flood insurance premiums starting April 1. The premium hikes, which are required by law, will be as little as 2 percent for some properties and as high as 24 percent for others. On average, the increase will be about 8 percent.

“The National Flood Insurance Program requires premiums to rise on certain classes of properties over a period of years until they’re paying the full actuarial rate on their risk,” say analysts with the National Association of REALTORS®. “The 8 percent average increase is right in the range of increases for the last couple of years, so there’s nothing unusual here. It’s just the standard rate increase.”

Learn more about the rate changes in a bulletin released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program.

Mortgage Rates Barely Budge This Week

After last week’s first rate drop of the year, mortgage rates showed little change this week—a welcome sign for the week’s kickoff to the spring home shopping season. But home buyers and borrowers should expect several rate increases over the next few months, economists caution.

“The Federal Reserve raised interest rates [this week]—a much-anticipated move that comes as both U.S. and global economic fundamentals continue to strengthen,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “The Fed’s decision to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point puts the federal funds rate at its highest level since 2008. The decision, while widely expected, sent the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury soaring.” (Read: Fed Raises Rates: What This Means for Mortgages)

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending March 22:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.45 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.44 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.23 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.91 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.90 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.44 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

More Homeowners, Appraisers Agree on Values

Homeowners and appraisers are seeing more eye-to-eye when it comes to home values. Appraised values in February were, on average, just 0.53 percent below homeowner estimates—the fifth consecutive month where the gap between the two groups has been less than 1 percent, according to the National Quicken Loans Home Price Perception Index.

When shopping for a home—or even refinancing a current mortgage—consumers should always keep the changes in their local market in mind before estimating a home’s value.”

The Home Price Perception Index chart and other data at article source: Quicken Loans

Home Loan Rates Post First Decline of 2018

Following nine consecutive weeks of increases, borrowers finally got some relief this week with mortgage rates. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage posted its first week-over-week decrease of 2018.

“Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index report indicated inflation may be cooling down; headline consumer price inflation was 2.2 percent year over year in February,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “Following this news, the 10-year Treasury fell slightly. Mortgage rates followed.”

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending March 15:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.44 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.46 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.30 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.94 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.50 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Renovations Homeowners Are Eyeing This Year

Outdoor improvements, including decks, patios, and landscaping, remained highest on owners’ to-do lists for the fifth consecutive year. Interior renovations also are popular: Nearly a third of homeowners say they plan to remodel a bathroom, and more than one in four say they plan to update their kitchen, according to a recent survey by LightStream Home Improvement

65 percent of survey respondents saying they’ll take on at least some of the work. Thirty-five percent of the group say they’ll do the entire project on their own.

Also, budgets for renovations are increasing. Forty-five percent of homeowners who are planning a renovation project say they’re willing to spend $5,000 or more—a record high for the survey. The number of respondents who plan to spend $35,000 or more doubled from 2017.

Source: “Home Improvement Ramps Up in 2018,” The LightStream blog (Feb. 27, 2018)

Household Net Worth Reaches Record High

Americans are feeling richer. Household net worth neared $100 trillion in the final quarter of last year, falling into record territory, according to new data released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday. Rising stock markets and property prices were attributed to the jolt in the fourth quarter. (Household net worth is the value of all of a consumer’s assets, like stocks and real estate, minus any liabilities like mortgage and credit card debt.)

Household net worth increased more than $2 trillion last quarter to a record $98.7 trillion in the final three months of last year, according to the report. Households in the U.S. saw their net worth increase to nearly seven times their disposable personal income in 2017.

More at source: “U.S. Household Net Worth Pushes Further Into Record Territory,” The Wall Street Journal (March 8, 2018) [Log-in required.] and “Stock Market Lifts U.S. Household Wealth to $98.7 Trillion,” The Associated Press/USA Today (March 8, 2018)