It started in early March when, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia and Russia initiated an oil price war – tumbling prices by 34% (down to $31.73 per barrel). Today this price war continues, with crude at only $20.71 per barrel. The pandemic and oil price combination has sent the stock market into a tailspin. With equity investors continuing their flight to safe-haven holdings, the DJIA has dropped almost 30% from the Feb. 12 high of 29,551.
Although 10-Year Treasuries (the rate that typically sets the direction of fixed mortgage rates) have averaged 2.27% over the past 5 years, a record low 0.318% 10-Year yield was recently reached.
But if mortgage rates usually reduce when investors flee the stock market, why did 30-year fixed mortgage rates increase from 3.15% to as high as 4.15% during this commotion???
For several reasons due to huge uncertainty, volatility and panic – all of which increased costs to lenders… which in turn were passed on to borrowers in the form of higher mortgage rates:
Here's the Point: In a market with unprecedented volatility, there are several reasons why mortgage rates actually go in a direction opposite to what you might expect.
Good question! Maybe the best place to start is to read what the experts are saying. But even before that, you’ll need to determine who you think the experts are and which are the most reliable.
Let’s assume for the moment that the national agencies listed below are the experts – since most people generally tend to rely on them for making interest rate projections. But now let’s have a look at their track records…
At the beginning of each year listed below, they made predictions of what the 30-year fixed mortgage rates would be in the fourth quarter of the same year. You will see that their 2018 predictions were much better than their 2019 predictions (rates listed are for the most qualified borrowers):
Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)
Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)
National Association of Realtors (NAR)
Average Prediction of the Experts:
Year-End Actual 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates:
If you had relied on the “experts” and rushed to purchase a home for $200,000 (with a 20% down payment) and locked in your interest rate at 4.6% at the end of 2018 (thinking that rates were headed to 5.1% in 2019), your monthly mortgage payments of principal and interest would have been $820. But had you waited to lock at the 3.7% 2019 year-end actual mortgage rate, you would have saved $84 per month or just over $1,000 per year in mortgage payments.
If you had you ignored the experts and waited to lock your interest rate until the end of 2019 (instead of the end of 2018), you would have saved over $30,000 of interest costs over the life of a 30-year mortgage!
Here's the Point: Do your homework before locking your rate. But when the timing and the numbers work for you, don’t second guess your lock decision (because even the experts get it wrong).
A Bridge Loan can be an effective solution if you need to pull equity out of an existing property to purchase a new property. It can especially come in handy if you suddenly come across the perfect home to buy – but you have not yet sold your existing home (and you know that your income is likely insufficient to cover the mortgage payments on two properties at the same time).
Provided your credit score is at least 680, up to 75% of the value of your current, to-be-sold home may be extended to you via a Bridge Loan in one advance. The Bridge Loan proceeds would need to be used to fully repay your existing mortgage balance, but you can also use any leftover loan proceeds towards the down payment on your to-be-purchased home. The Bridge Loan structure allows you to make an offer on a new property, which is not contingent on the sale of your existing property.
Bridge Loans are generally due in 12 months, which is ample time to sell your existing property. No mortgage payments are required to be made on the Bridge Loan until your property is sold (at which time the principal would be paid back plus accrued interest). And, because there are no monthly Bridge Loan payment requirements, Bridge Loan obligations are not counted towards the lender’s debt-to-income ratio calculation. The same lender will then separately advance you a permanent loan of up to 80% of the value of your to-be-purchased primary residence.
Here's the Point: Bridge Loans are alive and well, and therefore you don’t necessarily need to have sold your current home before purchasing your dream home.
Buying a house for the first-time or even second time can be extremely exciting, but it can also be one of the most complex purchases of your life. Not knowing what to do when and how to start can make it even more daunting. To simplify things, we’ve broken down the timeline and created a step-by-step guide to help you navigate all the twists and turns along the way.
Assess your situation and get your financials in order. Before jumping into your home search, you must determine how much you can afford. You may have saved enough for your down payment, but don’t forget to account for closing costs, taxes, insurance, and any other unforeseen expenses that may arise when buying a house. This is also the time to make sure you’ve paid down your credit cards and that your credit score is in good condition, ensure you’ve filed your taxes, and that you have a paper trail for all recent major financial transactions.
Get pre-approved and find a mortgage lender. It’s important to apply for a mortgage pre-approval before you begin house hunting in earnest. Not only will this help keep you realistic about your options, but it also shows sellers that you’re a qualified and serious buyer. Don’t be tempted to just go with your current bank. It’s best to shop around to find the best rate and determine which mortgage and lender are right for you. Pre-approval letters do have an expiration date, so be aware of when yours is. It’s okay if you have to apply again later on.
Find a buyer’s agent. A buyer’s agent is a licensed real estate agent who will represent you throughout your buying journey. A good buyer’s agent will be an expert on the home buying process, know your area inside and out, be familiar with local listing agents, and be a skilled negotiator.
Begin searching for homes. Ask the questions that will help set parameters for your home search. Are you looking to move to a new city such as Sacramento or Portland? Are you set on buying a house in a particular school district or neighborhood? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you want a single-family home or are you open to a townhouse, or maybe even a condo?
Attend open houses and go on tours. When you’re touring multiple homes, it’s easy to confuse different features or concerns so take notes as you’re touring. Don’t forget to pick your agent’s brain and ask for their input.
Submit, or resubmit your pre-approval application. If you didn’t get a pre-approval letter, now is the time. Most letters last for 60 to 90 days. If your search extends beyond that, reapply.
Make an offer. You’ve found the home you want to call yours. Submit your offer as soon after touring the house as possible. Speed is of the essence in a competitive housing market with limited inventory. Talk with your agent about the terms of your deal and the competition you face to determine an offer price. You and your agent will work together to write and submit the offer letter to the seller’s agent.
Negotiate Home Price. Counter-offers are common and should even be expected when buying a house. Common counter-offers can include proposed changes to the price, closing date, or purchase contract contingencies. You may go back and forth with the seller a few times before you come to terms you both agree on.
Enter the closing process. Once you and the seller agree on the terms, you’ll enter the closing process, which usually takes 30 to 45 days. You’ll likely be in very close communication with your agent, lender, and escrow agency during this time.
Deposit earnest money. Once the seller has accepted the offer, the earnest money will be deposited into an escrow account or held by the listing agent. Once the sale of the home has been completed, the earnest money you paid will be applied toward your closing costs.
Order your title. You’ll receive a preliminary title report from an escrow agent or attorney within a week after you reach mutual acceptance on an offer. Once the transaction closes, you will receive a final title policy.
Line up a home inspection. This step is critical as it allows you as the homebuyer to discover any material defects or necessary repairs before buying the house. Pay special attention to the results of the inspection because many states hold a buyer responsible for understanding and investigating issues raised during inspections. Also, if there is an inspection contingency, you can negotiate with sellers to cover the costs of certain repairs, ask for concessions, or back out of the sale.
Finalize the home sale. Now that you’ve completed all negotiations, it’s time to finalize and sign the purchase agreement with the seller.
Complete the mortgage application and book an appraisal. While you have been pre-approved, you still need to meet with your lender and finalize your mortgage application. The lender will also request an appraisal at this time.
Receive Loan Approval. A licensed appraiser will determine the home’s market value based on comparable recent sales of homes in the neighborhood. After the appraisal has been completed, it will typically take around two weeks for the lender to get all the paperwork and approval completed.
Final walk-through. This is when you can verify that the condition of the house hasn’t changed and that all updates and repairs have been made. The final walk-through usually takes place 24 hours before the scheduled closing day.
Pay closing costs and sign all paperwork. Come to closing day prepared with your government-issued ID and any requested documents. Bring a cashier’s check for your down payment and be prepared to pay any closing costs. Now all that’s left to do is close escrow and sign the required paperwork.
Get your keys. Congratulations on your new home! Depending on if your house is turnkey ready or not, there might be some maintenance and remodeling you want to complete before moving in. You’ll also want to think about hiring movers, buying new furniture and appliances, setting up your utilities, etc. You’ll pay for these after the house is yours but may want to factor them into your budget or create a separate post-move budget.
Emily Huddleston is part of the content marketing team for REDFIN and enjoys writing about real estate trends and home improvement. Her dream home would be a charming Tudor-style house with large windows to let in lots of natural light.
Snowbird mortgage rules are the same for anyone looking to finance a vacation home, unless the borrower resides outside the U.S. In the latter case, there are more onerous foreign national mortgage regulations, a higher interest rate would apply, and there are several title, estate planning, legal and tax issues which would need to be carefully considered. Given today’s exchange rate [CAD$1.00 = US$0.76], Canadians would do well to obtain a mortgage from a U.S. lender – preferably one affiliated with their Canadian bank (for relationship, credit history and funds transfer purposes).
But here are a few thoughts for those who are able to qualify for a conventional mortgage for the purchase of a property in the sunny South:
Here’s the Point: Snowbirds could save a bundle of money by doing a little homework before financing a Florida home purchase.
One cold and snowy night, Bob Cratchit was wondering how he could purchase a new home for his family by Christmas. Not just any home, but one that would surely be perfect for Tiny Tim and his wife – a dream come true.
Their current home was fine, but space was cramped now – and the heater and roof would likely need to be replaced within the next few years.
“I could sell my home and use the net proceeds towards the down payment of our new home”, he thought, “but I need more time to get our current home ready for sale.” “And, how can I afford mortgage payments on two homes?” It didn’t seem possible.
Would his cruel boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, give him a bonus to make this work? As expected, Cratchit was laughed out of Scrooge’s office. Discouraged and dejected, Cratchit gave up.
But Scrooge, after being visited that night by Christmas ghosts, miraculously agreed the next day to simultaneously lend Cratchit two loans: 75% and 80% of the values of his current and dream home, respectively! Cratchit, having just a 680 credit score, could now use Scrooge’s Bridge Loan proceeds towards the down payment on the new home. Scrooge’s 12-month Bridge Loan term would provide ample time for Cratchit to sell his existing property. And, Scrooge waived all Bridge Loan payments until Cratchit sold his current home – when the principal would be paid back plus accrued interest.
Cratchit made an offer on his dream home the next day!
Here’s the Point: Bridge Loans are alive and well, and therefore you don’t necessarily need to sell your current home before purchasing your dream home.
Do you own your business and maximize your expenses to minimize your taxes?
Who wouldn’t employ this strategy!
Well, a break-even tax return would prevent you from getting a conventional mortgage. But if your business has been open for two years, and you can show reasonably consistent deposits each month – then you might qualify for a mortgage under a bank statement program.
You can be approved for a mortgage based solely on your bank statements – without the lender even needing to see your tax returns. There are programs that will accept as little as three consecutive months of bank statements. The more months you are willing to provide (i.e., 24 months provides the best interest rate), the more comfortable the lender can become with your operations.
The lender will tally your average business deposits, and apply an expense ratio – which could be from: (i) an internal or third-party industry standard, (ii) your external accountant, or (iii) your Profit & Loss Statement that matches your selected bank statement period.
Since your resulting net income figure is used to calculate the mortgage amount for which you could qualify, it is more advantageous to select the current bank statement period that maximizes your business deposits.
Some lenders will:
Here’s the Point: Don’t pass on obtaining a mortgage just because you think your tax return doesn’t
report enough business earnings.
Sellers know their bottom-line sales price. But sometimes it pays to incentivize a motivated Buyer – especially if the Buyer has limited liquidity to cover their down payment, closing costs and reserves.
If a Buyer makes an offer contingent on financing AND predicated on the Seller paying for all or a portion of closing costs (i.e., concessions), then the Seller may wait for a better offer. However, if the Buyer’s offer is silent on concessions, the contract may progress to a stage where the Buyer may consider sweetening the purchase price – in exchange for dollar-for-dollar concessions at closing.
A few issues to consider when Seller concessions are involved:
Lenders refer to Seller Concessions as Interested Party Contributions (IPC’s). IPC’s are generally the responsibility of the Buyer – but paid for by the Seller, and are either “Financing Concessions” (e.g., mortgage closing costs) or “Sales Concessions”. Financing Concessions are expressed as a percentage of the lesser of the appraised value or purchase price, and any costs covered by the Seller that exceed the Financing Concession limits (per the chart below) are deemed Sales Concessions.
Note that lenders deduct all Sales Concessions from the sales price when calculating LTV for underwriting purposes. Therefore, excessive IPC’s could limit the amount of Buyer loan proceeds.
Here’s the Point: Lenders impose limits on certain Seller Concessions (IPC’s), which, if exceeded, may provide pre-qualification challenges for Buyers.
Subsequent to the Housing Crisis, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act imposed many new rules. This was a response, in part, to some unscrupulous mortgage lenders and brokers charging excessive fees to consumers.
Mortgage lenders and brokers cannot charge origination fees to borrowers that represent more than 3.0% of the loan amount (the “Points & Fees Cap”). As reasonable as this fee cap concept sounds, it is fraught with restrictions that are unfair to the people it was meant to protect.
Let’s take an example of a consumer wishing to borrow $120,000 to buy a home:
$2,700.00 - Mortgage Broker Fee (2.25%* of Loan Amount)
975.00 - Lender Administration (Standard Average Flat Fee)
$3,675.00 - Total Origination Fees
* Average Florida mortgage broker fees range between 2.0% to 2.75% (based on the interest rate selected, the borrower is eligible to receive a credit at closing to fully cover this fee for most conventional loans).
On the surface, the loan fails the 3.0% Cap (i.e., $3,675 of fees represents 3.1% of the loan). This renders the loan a “Non-Qualified Mortgage”, in which case Fannie Mae could elect not to purchase the loan from the mortgage lender. The lender might stamp “decline”, given their potential inability to monetize the loan.
And, if the lender imposes customary “risk adjustment fees” to compensate for a higher loan-to-value or lower credit score (or if the borrower pays a reasonable fee to “buy-down” the rate), these “Discount Points” must also be added into the calculation – making it impossible for the borrower to obtain a Qualified Mortgage. Fortunately, the regulators have acknowledged that some “bonafide” fees may be excluded from the cap calculation, allowing most mortgages to qualify after time-consuming compliance checks.
Here’s the Point: Regulators imposed a “Points & Fees Cap” to ensure that mortgage lender and broker fees are reasonable, but the resulting time-intensive compliance checks can delay closings.
When U.S. housing prices peaked in 2006-07, the subsequent period of unprecedented value depreciation was attributed mainly to housing speculation – fueled by subprime lending. Today, billions of dollars of debt is still being extended annually to consumers who are unable to qualify for conventional or FHA financing.
Some say “Subprime” mortgages have merely been disguised by re-naming them “Non-QM”. Non-Qualified Mortgages are residential loans that do not comply with post-housing crisis standards, as set by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (to ensure borrowers have the “ability to repay” their loans).
Lenders following CFPB guidelines are able to sell their “conforming” mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government-sponsored agencies). However, mortgages that do not satisfy agency requirements are deemed Non-QM, and are either held by the originating lenders or sold to yield-driven investors.
Although opinions vary, loan underwriting is very different today than during the housing bubble. Subprime loans were generally earmarked for borrowers with poor credit, and consisted of excessive interest rates, prepayment penalties and negative amortization (where loan principal increases over the life of the loan, rather than decreases).
Mainstream national Non-QM lenders mitigate risk today through a combination of protective policy guidelines, as well as prudent credit score, reserve and debt-to-income/loan-to-value ratio requirements – all of which have helped to keep defaults and foreclosures to a minimum. Borrower liquidity and repayment ability are being more closely scrutinized by Non-QM lenders than before, and adverse loan terms are rarely seen in forward residential mortgages today – at least for now...
Here’s the Point: If you are unable to qualify for conventional or FHA financing, there are still plenty of programs available to help you with your purchase or refinance – but the terms have tightened considerably since the subprime era.