Tuesday, March 20, 2012

FHA Mortgages are poised to get more expensive

If you're considering buying a house with an FHA mortgage and expect the seller to help out with your closing costs, here's a heads-up: The Federal Housing Administration plans to impose significant restrictions on the amount of money that sellers can contribute at closing in the near future.

On top of that, the FHA also will be raising its mortgage insurance premiums during the coming weeks, increasing charges for new purchasers across the board.

You might ask, why hit us with additional financial burdens right now, just as housing is showing modest signs of recovery in many areas and the spring buying season is getting underway?

One big reason: Over the last six years, the FHA has been the turnaround champ of residential real estate, offering down payments as low as 3.5% despite the recession and housing bust and growing its market share to 25%-plus from 3%. The program is financing 40% or more of all new-home purchases in some metropolitan areas and is a crucial resource for first-time buyers and moderate-income families, especially minorities. With a maximum loan amount of $729,750 in high-cost areas, it is also a force in some of the country's most expensive markets — California, Washington, D.C., New York and parts of New England.

But during the same span of rapid growth, the FHA's insurance fund capital reserves have steadily deteriorated — far below congressionally mandated levels. Delinquencies have been increasing. According to the latest quarterly survey by the Mortgage Bankers Assn., FHA delinquencies rose to 12.4%, compared with a 4.1% average for prime (Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac) conventional fixed-rate mortgages and 6.6% for VA loans.

As a result, the FHA is under the gun — with Congress and within the Obama administration — to get its own house in order, cut insurance claims and rebuild its reserves. The upcoming squeezes on seller contributions and bumps in premiums are steps in this direction.

The seller-contribution cutbacks could be painful, particularly in areas of the country where closing costs and home prices are relatively high.

Here's what's involved: Traditionally the FHA has been uniquely generous in allowing home sellers — including builders marketing new construction — to sweeten the pot for purchasers by chipping in money to defray closing costs. The FHA now allows sellers to pay up to 6% of the price of the house toward their buyers' closing expenses. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, by comparison, cap contributions at 3%. The VA's ceiling is 4%.

Under newly proposed rules, the FHA cap would drop to the greater of 3% of the home price or $6,000. In sales involving houses priced at $100,000 or less, this wouldn't change anything ($6,000 equals 6% of $100,000). But on all sales above this threshold, the squeeze would get progressively tighter.

On a $200,000 home, a buyer could today ask the seller to pay for $12,000 of a long list of settlement charges including all prepaid loan expenses, discount points on the loan, interest rate buy-downs and upfront FHA insurance premiums, among others. Under the proposed cutback, the maximum amount would be slashed in half.

On many home transactions, the reductions would force sellers to lower their prices to enable cash-short buyers to get through the closing. In other cases, sales might simply be too far of a stretch for some purchasers.

The proposed cuts are open to public comment through the end of this month but are highly likely to be adopted in much the same form soon afterward. The FHA also is restricting the types of "closing costs" that sellers can pay. Six months' or a year's worth of interest payments or homeowner association dues in advance no longer will be permitted — a serious blow to many builders who use these as financial carrots.

Beyond these changes, FHA also plans significant increases in insurance premiums — upfront premiums will rise to 1.75% from 1%, effective April 1, and annual premiums will increase by 0.1% on all loans under $625,000 and 0.35% on mortgage amounts above that, effective June 1.

William McCue, president of McCue Mortgage Co. in New Britain, Conn., which does a sizable percentage of its business with the FHA, said the cumulative effect of all these increases "will not just crowd first-time buyers out of the FHA market, it will prevent them from owning a home that, absent these new costs, would be affordable."

Bottom line: Nail down your FHA money and seller-contribution negotiations as soon as you can because later looks a lot more expensive.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Real Estate Financing ~ Points -vs- No points

The New York Times recently ran an article that covered some basics and provided some stats. Definitions are good if you are not experienced but stats are only fluff because everyone's situation is different so what John Smith does has no bearing on what you should do.

Here's the highlights of the New York Times article but read on to the end as I will make some valid points that you should consider closely before you automatically agree to what your Lender has chosen for you or what information you give to Lenders to quote you on, especially important if you are shopping your loan with 2 or 3 Lenders. so here goes the Times story highlights ...

Points lose favor
With interest rates at or near record lows, many borrowers are seeing little reason to pay points when buying or refinancing a home. Some are even opting for what’s known as “negative points,” agreeing to a slightly higher rate to help pay closing costs.

Making sense of the story

Paying points enables a borrower to “buy down” the interest rate on a mortgage in exchange for an upfront fee. The trend away from points partly reflects borrower sentiment that rates are already low enough, according to industry experts.

A point equals 1 percent of the loan amount, so paying one point on a $250,000 refinancing costs an extra $2,500 at closing, in addition to other mortgage fees, taxes, and escrow amounts. Paying a point usually reduces the interest rate by 0.25 points over its term, so for instance, instead of 4 percent, the rate is 3.75 percent.

The average number of points paid in 2011, according to a Freddie Mac survey, was 0.7 percentage points, less than half the levels people paid in the 1990s. The average has been 0.7 percent for three years, after it hit a low of 0.4 percent in 2007; in 1995 it averaged 1.8 percent, according to Freddie Mac data.

The primary advantages of paying points are a lower rate and monthly payment. To decide if paying points is worthwhile, borrowers should consider two key decisions: How long they plan to live in the home, and how much they can afford in close costs.

Many mortgage professionals suggest following this rule: If the borrower plans to live in the home for at least five years, paying points will help the homeowner to reap savings.

Some borrowers are even going for negative points, which is also called a lender rebate or points in reverse. In exchange for accepting a higher interest rate, the lender agrees to give the borrower a credit, which is usually used for closing costs.

Roger's highlights:

1) If you purchase and pay points, you can write off those points on your taxes. If you refinance and pay points, you can still write them off but you must amortize them over the terms of the loan;

2) When you pay points, you have availed yourself of a lower interest rate so that you realize a savings monthly which helps your cashflow. It generally takes 3-5 years of savings to equal the points you paid up front (depending on the loan amount, rate and term) however from that point until you pay the loan off, refinance or sell the property, you are saving $ _X_ amount monthly after the break even date.

3) If cash is a little tight when you are purchasing or refinancing, you could seek a no point loan or even a no cost loan. ..coupling this with closing credits from the seller could put you into your dreamhouse.

Talk to a Realtor® - your local desert real estate soltions expert is:
Roger A. Sullivan reachable at 760-610-3245 or Roger@RogerASullivan.com

as always - Keep the faith!