The Surge in Mortgage Interest Rates Could Trigger a Market Slowdown  

Earlier this year, the conventional wisdom was that mortgage interest rates would rise to the 4% range by the end of the year, so when the rates rose to 5% abruptly in early April, it took us all by surprise.

The agents at Golden Real Estate are noticing a reduction in bidding wars, which might be due to the increased cost of financing a home purchase. It may be too early to draw any conclusions, but the interest rate increase is not looking temporary at this point, so we’ll have to see how the statistics for April and May come out.

Principal and interest (P&I) on a 30-year $500,000 loan at 4% has a monthly payment of $2,387. At 5%, that rises to $2,684.  Earlier this year, you could get that loan for 3%, which would cost $2,108 per month for P&I.

How does this affect affordability?

With a 3% interest rate, a person could get a $637,000 loan for the same P&I as a $500,000 loan at 5%. That is enough of a shock to disrupt many buyers’ purchasing plans.

I’ll be watching and let you know.

Changes Announced to 2nd Home & Jumbo Loans, Self-Employed Borrowers and Appraisal Fees  

I received a call this week from Jaxzann Riggs, owner of The Mortgage Network informing me of several changes occurring at FNMA and FHLMC that may “level” the playing field for some purchasers.

Roughly 17% of the homes sold in the last 12 months in the Denver metro area have been sold to investors, according to an article in the Denver Post. Demand for second homes has also skyrocketed, as newly remote workers seek more space and better surroundings. Until now, those purchasers were able to obtain loans with interest rates that were comparable to those being offered to purchasers who would be occupying their new home as their primary residence.

On Jan. 5th Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FNMA and FHLMC) jointly announced new “loan-level price adjustments” (or LLPAs) for high-balance, investment and second home loans. An LLPA is a risk–based fee assessed to mortgage borrowers using a conventional mortgage. Loan pricing adjustments vary by borrower, based on loan traits such as loan-to-value (LTV), credit score, occupancy type, and the number of units in a home. Borrowers often pay LLPAs in the form of higher mortgage rates. Increasing the LLPAs on high-balance, investment and second homes makes interest rates less attractive for the buyers and allows FNMA and FHLMC to offer new programs to help first-time or lower-income homebuyers.

Other recent changes by FNMA and FHLMC help self-employed borrowers.  They have rescinded rules imposed in June 2020 requiring self-employed borrowers to supply a year-to-date P&L as well as their most recent 2 or 3 months of bank statements. This reduction in paperwork should make it much easier for self-employed borrowers to obtain financing.

Another benefit may be found in the potential for lower appraisal fees. With the current red hot housing market, demand for appraisers is outstripping the supply, pushing up fees and extending appraisal completion times. Enter technology. Fannie Mae will allow desktop appraisals for certain loans submitted after March 19. This technology may help alleviate the appraiser shortage in the long term and lower appraisal costs in the current market. Jaxzann reminded me that she pays for her clients’ appraisals so they can be ordered immediately upon acceptance of a purchaser’s offer. With the ability to obtain desktop appraisals, Jaxzann expects that loan approvals can consistently be obtained in two weeks.

Though median home prices have shot up in the last two years (by 25%, according to HUD), what hasn’t changed is that people still need their homes to serve as an anchor for their life.

If you are in the market for a jumbo loan, things have gotten easier. A jumbo loan is a mortgage that exceeds the conforming loan limit set by the federal government. Jumbo loans — meant to finance expensive properties — cannot be purchased or securitized by FNMA and FHLMC. Loan amounts above $684,250 are considered “jumbo” and often have higher standards for approval. 

While people typically assume you need 10% down for a jumbo loan, there are currently products that allow as little as 3.5% down. This can free up some of your savings for being more competitive in this market, using funds for escalation causes, appraisal gaps, updates if the house isn’t in dream home condition.

Yes, today’s market can make buying a home stressful, but working with an experienced professional like Jaxzann Riggs will allow you to navigate its challenges. Call her at 303-990-2992 with your lending questions.

What Is the Effect of Today’s Surging Inflation Rates on Real Estate?  

With everything costing more these days, from groceries to gasoline to natural gas, what is the effect on the real estate market?

No doubt, you’ve heard that the year-over-year consumer price index increased by 6.8% in November, the highest increase in 40 years.

You also know that real estate prices and rents have increased too. So how do those statistics compare, and is buying still a better choice than renting?

Home prices have actually increased more than consumer prices over the last year, making real estate ownership the best hedge against inflation. In the Denver metro area (excluding Boulder) as of Sept. 30, 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average sold price of homes was $614,800, an increase of 21.5% over the prior year. The average apartment rental price was $1,689 per months, an increase of 12.5% over the prior year. If you had a mortgage, the average monthly cost of ownership of that average home purchase was an astounding $4,126 per month for a single family detached home, making the rental of an average apartment much more affordable.

But, of course, the money you spend on rent is money down the drain, whereas the homeowner may find that the value of his/her home increases by more than the monthly mortgage payment. To me, there’s no comparison to owning vs. renting, but I understand that renting makes sense for many families.

So, what’s the prognosis for home ownership in 2022?  Because of the inflation rate, we can also expect mortgage rates to rise from around 3% to 3.7% in 2022 according to NAR, but if you already own your home, your low interest rate is locked in. Mortgage rates currently average 3.1%, according to Freddie Mac. 

A higher interest rate, however, could affect what you might sell your home for, if that’s in your plans. Compared, however, to the increase in value you’ve already experienced, I don’t think the effect of higher interest rates will be too much of a downer for you, should you choose to sell.

Unless you’ve switched to heat pump heating and cooling and have installed solar panels to generate the electricity, your home heating cost will increase in 2022. The cost of natural gas has already increased by 25%. The nice thing about electricity is that its cost can only increase by a vote of the Public Utilities Commission, and those increases are more gradual.

Gasoline costs have skyrocketed, but, again, the electricity to power EVs has not, and if you installed enough solar panels, you probably pay nothing for your car’s fuel. I suspect that solar installers are doing a good business nowadays. The cost of solar has plummeted, so call an intaller for a quote.

If You’re Surviving Covid-19 Financially, This May Be a Good Time to Buy or Sell

Despite the best efforts of state, local and federal governments, there will surely be people who are suffering financial hardship and have had to put their dreams of homeownership on hold.  I wish them well as they dig themselves out of this terrible situation.

For those who are surviving Covid-19, however, and don’t get sick from it in the coming months, the continued record-low interest rates are making home purchase more attractive and more affordable.

As you’ve no doubt heard, the Federal Reserve has plunged hard into softening the impact of the virus and its attendant effects on the economy by reducing the Fed Funds interest rate used by banks to near zero. While this rate is unrelated to mortgage rates, we are also seeing those rates staying below 4% and approaching 3%, which is propping up the real estate market in a big way.

People who can afford to buy a home and have the income to qualify for a mortgage are getting off the fence. This is evident from how many homes are going under contract quickly, often with competitive bidding.

In the first 10 days of May, there were 2,306 homes within 25 miles of the State Capitol entered on Denver’s MLS. 615 of them were under contract by May 10th. Another 171 homes were entered as “Coming Soon” as of this Tuesday.

May 5-12 Stats within 25 miles of State Capitol

While that’s less than the first 10 days of May 2019, when 3,348 homes were entered on the MLS and 795 of them went under contract by May 10, it’s still an impressive amount of activity, and is probably due in part to the excellent mortgage situation.

Another factor that will stimulate purchasing among the wealthy is that the stock market has recovered more than half of its early losses due to the virus. That makes it more likely that investors would be willing to liquidate stocks to finance a cash purchase of real estate.

In April 2019, about 48% of homes sold at or above their asking price, and 46% of them sold in a week or less. This year’s performance is better. Of the homes that closed during April 2020, about 58% sold at or above their asking price, and about 62% sold in a week or less. Those statistics tell me that we have a pretty active sellers market, which stands in contrast to the gloomy economic situation caused by Covid-19.

It’s hard to believe that the real estate market will tank later this year if it is not tanking already.

I’m seeing that dynamic myself. As of this writing, all my own listings are either under contract or closed, including the Wheat Ridge home featured as “coming soon” a couple weeks ago.  That $550,000 brick ranch was only listed as “active” on the MLS last Tuesday, and showings didn’t begin until Saturday, but our first offer came in on Sunday, and it was under contract at better than full price by Tuesday morning.

The Federal Reserve Raised Interest Rates, Yet Mortgage Rates Plummeted. Why?

If you follow mortgage interest rate fluctuations, you may wonder how mortgage rates can drop despite several increases in the Federal Reserve’s much talked about discount rate over the past year.

The benchmark 30-year mortgage rate plummeted 27 basis points (over 1/4 percent) last week, the biggest weekly drop in a decade, creating a huge affordability window for home buyers and for homeowners considering a mortgage refinance. The last time the benchmark 30-year rate was below this level was Jan. 3, 2018, when it hit 4.10 percent, according to Bankrate’s historical data.

This can be a teachable moment, so I asked one of my preferred lenders, Scott Lagge of Movement Mortgage to explain.

According to Scott, financial markets are complex, and many factors impact interest rates.  What we are experiencing currently is based to a large degree on consumer sentiment.  As consumers, we can have a huge impact on the market based on what we “feel” about where the economy is headed.  If we “feel” the market is getting worse, we hold onto our money, spend less, buy less, and shift our investments from short term to long term investments. Therefore, worries about slowing economic growth can change our behaviors as consumers and as investors.  Investors worried about the economy slowing in the short-term start to shift their money to long-term investments such as bonds, specifically mortgage backed securities (also known as mortgage bonds). This flood of money into mortgage bonds reduces mortgage bond values and rates fall due to an over abundance or supply of bonds.  In essence, it’s supply and demand.

For a more technical explanation, Scott cited this statement from Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst: “Worries about slowing economic growth — both domestically and abroad — and the inversion of the Treasury yield curve put investors into semi-panic, bringing bond yields still lower after the Fed indicated no more rate hikes in 2019.”

Above is a chart from showing last week’s sudden drop in mortgage interest rates. 

Changes in mortgage rates can affect home prices. To the extent that buyers use mortgage financing, what they can afford to purchase goes up or down. As mortgage rates flirted with 5%, we saw a definite softening of the long-running seller’s market. If these low rates last into the coming weeks, we may see more buyers wanting to resume house hunting and lock in a low mortgage rate.

Scott Lagge invites you to call him at 303-944-8552 if you’d like to see what interest rate you qualify for. Call me at 303-525-1851 if you’d like to go house hunting!