A Stable Real Estate Market and Great Interest Rates – That’s Something To Be Thankful For

Well, we have good news to report on the market – We have reached a point of stability.

We are now officially into the winter market as we are starting to see things wind down.  Our listing inventory is currently at 8,512 houses for sale which is actually down from our 7 year high last month.  STONE BALANCEWe have a 3.7 month supply of homes which is about the same level as last month.  Obviously, we would like to see more sales as would our sellers but we are maintaining our sales levels, not decreasing which is more good news.  Additional positive news is interest rates remain low and prices are stable so the opportunity for buyers to lock in reasonable monthly payments is available.  From the buyer’s perspective, now is a great time to buy.

I had a conversation with Josh Burruss of MVB Mortgage about payments with rates where they are today versus a situation where they to go up .5% – here is the result of our discussion.  Currently the rate on a 30 year fixed conforming mortgage is approximately 4.00% (APR 4.058%) based on a sales price of $500,000 with a down payment of 20%.  If the interest rate were to rise just 0.5% (4.50% – APR of 4.562%) from current levels, the principal and interest payments would increase by approximately $117/mo.  The difference in the overall finance charge in these two interest rates over the life of the loan is approximately $42,241.94.  As you can see, just a half percent in interest rate can mean a huge difference in overall cost over the life of a mortgage.  If you want to discuss this with him in greater detail, feel free to call him at 703-727-4239.

Moving forward, we need to pay attention to the end of QE3 and the government’s subsequent completion of bond buying.  We are expecting rates to rise into 2015 as a result of this policy.  Right now we have great rates so take advantage while you can because the Fed still thinks it will be a “considerable time” before it begins to raise interest rates. The Zero Interest Rate Policy remains in full force, as it has been since it began at the end of 2008.  This policy will change because we cannot sustain this type of monetary policy as it just continues to add to our National debt.  Plus, we need a market-driven interest rate environment and a more predictable monetary policy to help foster long term economic growth.  This will definitely impact our housing recovery moving forward.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your housing situation in more detail so please feel free to contact me via email scottmacdonald@remax.net or give me a call 703-652-5777

Scott MacDonald

RE/MAX Gateway

Multiple Offer Strategies In Real Estate: Help For Home Buyers

It is no surprise that we are seeing more and more multiple contract situations.  The perfect storm is in place – interest rates are at 65 year lows, inventory levels are at extremely low levels, and there are buyers anxious to get into houses.  Affordability levels are near all-time highs as well so it only makes sense that buyers are finding themselves competing to get into a home today.

So, the question is how do you win and get the home your client’s desire?

  • Add an escalation clause which allows you to bid up the price above any other offer up to an amount you are comfortable paying.  The escalation amount should be an interesting number like $1,150 as most people just do $500 or $1,000 – make your offer stand out.
  • Increase your earnest money deposit to show your interest in purchasing the house.  If your down payment is 20%, make your deposit 10%.  If you are doing FHA, have your deposit equal your down payment of 3.5%.  You are going to be putting the money down anyway, why not do this and attract more attention to your offer?Multiple Contract Strategies
  • Have a very short time frame on your home inspection contingency and radon contingency if you choose to have them.  Also, consider doing the inspection contingencies for informational purposes only just leaving yourself the opportunity to void if you find something so egregious or beyond what you expected.  If you and your agent are confident in the home’s condition, you may want to consider eliminating these contingencies but be extremely cautious when not exercising these contingencies.
  • Have a quick settlement date – Ashley Smith with Atlantic Coast Mortgage can close a loan in just 8 days if she has a complete loan application from her clients.
  • Additionally, encourage your loan officer to be proactive and call the listing agent and explain the financial arrangements and status of the loan.  Pat Cunningham of Home Savings and Trust was one of the first lenders to mention he was doing this for his clients.
  • Allow the seller to rent back after closing giving them flexibility on when they need to move or to give them time to find a home.
  • Put in a home of choice contingency for the sellers if they have not found a home yet – make the contingency for an extended period of time so they have the opportunity to find the house they really want.
  • If you are so bold, you can have the clients waive the appraisal contingency.  In order to do this, you need to work in conjunction with your lender and see if they can get a quick turnaround on the appraisal.  If so, have the appraisal done in concert with the home inspection contingency and if it doesn’t appraise, you can void based upon the home inspection or on the HOA/condo documents.  Not one of my favorite suggestions but it is a strategy you can undertake to help your contract win.  Also, if your lender can get a quick turnaround, make the appraisal contingency 5 or 7 days.
  • If you are dealing with a home owner and not a bank or investor, have your clients write a letter along with photos explaining why the house is so important to them and the trials and tribulations of their home buying experience.  It can sometimes help to pull on the heart strings of the owners.
  • You can explain to the listing agent, the highest contract isn’t always the best contract.  You need to have the right people in place to consummate the transaction not just someone willing to throw a high number just to get the house to only experience remorse later and back out of the contract.

These tips will help you win more contracts.  Consult with the clients and make sure they are comfortable with your recommendations prior to implementing them so they fully understand the repercussions of their actions.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

Now, go sell something!

What have people been asking about the market lately?

There a few topics being reported by the media recently and we have been asked about as real estate professionals as well.  One is “is there going to be a double dip in housing prices?” another is “has your market hit bottom and how can you tell?”, “where are the foreclosures?” and “what do you see is happening in the market?”

Let’s answer these one at a time.  First, is there going to be a double dip in housing prices?  The answer is yes and no.  It depends upon where you live.  If your area continues to lose jobs, houses continue to languish on the market, foreclosed properties and short sales dominate your housing sale’s landscape, yes your market has a very good chance of seeing a double dip in housing prices because, unfortunately, these are all recipes for housing price declines.  As a nation, we have seen the overall housing prices drop 33% from their highs which is even worse than the depression era when housing prices decreased 31%.  Conversely, if you have job growth, brisk housing sales, and the housing market is not riddled with distressed properties, you will see stable to increasing prices.  It is a simple formula – jobs equal a strong housing market, no jobs equals a lousy housing market and consequently price declines.

The next one is, “has your market hit bottom and how can you tell?”  This one can be answered very much like the first one.  Are jobs coming back or have layoffs stopped?  Are people moving back into your area?  Are sale signs turning to sold signs?  How are the inventory levels on houses for sale?  With this question, be sure to take careful consideration of whether the houses were removed from the market or actually sold.  How are the days on the market?  What is the month supply of houses?  If these areas mentioned are flat or decreasing, you have seen the bottom or are getting close to it.  You are almost there if you are not already.

The last one is more difficult to answer, “Where are the foreclosures?”  We have been told on numerous occasions that banks are sitting on inventory waiting to release them on the market but fail to do so because they don’t want to take the losses on their books all at one time.   We have heard stories of the foreclosure process taking in excess of 400 days in certain states and evictions in others taking up to 900 days.  There are in excess of 6.5 million people 30 days late or more on their mortgages.  We don’t know how many will cure, how many will default or even specifically where they are but it has been reported that a majority of them are in the sand states.  The sand states make up Nevada, Arizona, California, and Florida.

Most everyone you hear from in the media, speak with or read about all concur that we need the housing market to come back so the economy can recover fully.  It seems to be a growing consensus amongst our Realtors that the media needs to help grow consumer confidence in the housing market and get the economy back on track.  In one of my upcoming blogs, we will discuss mortgage reform and its impact on the housing recovery.

It is time to understand the housing market so you can intelligently discuss this with clients, acquaintances, and others you meet.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

Now, go sell something!              

Get in the Know…now!

We recently attended the RISMedia convention in New York and have compiled notes that I will share with you on what was discussed and comment – occasionally how it will affect our business and ask that you do research on certain topics to inform yourself to give our clients the most up-to-date information so they can make the right decisions when buying or selling a house.

Finance update

FHA

There have been two price increases on FHA loans recently – upfront MI and monthly MI.

-Lenders paid less on FHA loans.

-FHA loan amounts decrease.

-Potential increase in down payment requirements are also on the horizon.

-FHA Loans are 30% of the market.

-MI – 5% down training on MI is required for agents who want to stay in the know!

Additional facts on the market:

-2/3 mortgage applications don’t go through.

-Do consumers understand the process of obtaining credit – no – Agents are transactional

-7 million people have been out of work for 26+ weeks.

-19.8% of all prior mortgages are 90+days delinquent.

-Eminent defaults are on the horizon – stay tuned.

-60 million + people with less than 630 credit score.

Lenders are looking for point of sale contact with Realtors

-Want to help you grow your biz and attract more agents into their database?

The question is how?

-Training and education

-Shared marketing dollars

-Leads

-Exposure to listings through marketing ventures.

– What else can they provide?

GSE’s are stagnant on Capitol Hill and we shouldn’t expect progress anytime soon.  Too much else is on their plate.

270 points in Dodd-Frank bill – The lending industry WILL change.  We are expecting to receive talking points of the bill for you to share with your clients so stay tuned!

Do you know what Qualified Residential Mortgages are?  It is important to stay up on the trends.  QRM will push a 1/3 of Buyers out of market.  The comment period on QRM ends 6/10/2011 – get in the know and make your comments to your elected officials!

“Stuff” is thrown up against the wall right on Capitol Hill now to see what sticks

 – A tax on new home sales was proposed so that the existing home inventory could get absorbed and new home sales would subside as a result.

What is the HAMP Mod’s default rate within 6 months?  It occurs 60% of the time.

Average consumer has 13 credit obligations – 9 credit cards.

48% of college students leave school with bad credit

58% of college grads move home because of poor credit.

Ask your clients, “What is likelihood of you buying furniture, blinds, etc., if you do, can you really afford this house with this additional debt?”

Become a long term trusted advisor for your clients – provide valuable content – early and often.

Education is a continued effort so get educated.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

Now, go sell something!

 

Conversations with Dave Stevens from FHA

Profile[1].stevens

At RE/MAX Gateway, we strive to bring the most current information and speakers to our agents enabling them to rise above our competition.  This past Friday was no different.  Our office of just 90 agents was able to secure the Commissioner of FHA to speak one on one with me and answer all of our agent’s questions – as candidly as he could – and took nearly 2 hours out of his busy schedule help us understand the role of FHA and the direction it is headed to aid in our economic recovery.  As we sat down with Dave Stevensfrom FHA, we thought we would share some highlights from our conversation.

· Where do you get your info?  There is no number one source, market data is complied on a weekly basis.  His belief is that Realtytrac has ineffective data and their foreclosure numbers are way off. NAR’s numbers aren’t accurate either, so FHA scrubs data from different sources. SIFMAis one of those sources (a bond tracking market group on Wall Street that reviews mortgage data). Looking at bonds reflects mortgages that are securitized, they won’t count any other mortgages that aren’t securitized. The majority of mortgages are securitized with Fannie Mae as the servicer for all Fannie and Freddie loans. As a part of Dave’s plan, he wants to have more numbers up on the HUD website for everyone to see and use.  

· Information for policy changes depends on the policy. For RESPA, that change started in 2005 and took until 2010 to be complete, pass and get out to the public.  Sometimes they can happen more quickly as is the case with mortgagee letters.

· We have been reading about upcoming changes for mortgage brokers, what will these changes reflect? Lenders will need to be directly responsible to FHA for the loans they underwrite for brokers.  As it stands today, lenders have different guidelines for loans they originate for themselves and others that they originate for brokers.  So, at this time, brokers don’t underwrite or fund loan their own loans and therefore if someone defaults, it is on the US taxpayer to foot the bill on the defaults for loans they originate.  Today the guidelines to be FHA approved are:  a broker only needs $250,000 in net assets; only $67,000 needs to be in tangible assets; of the $67,000 only 20% of theses tangible assets need to be in cash – only $13,400. This change was proposed because brokers can’t back the loans they are originating, so when goes into default, who do they go after?  The taxpayer.  FHA wants to make sure that they can stand up to what the loans they are generating. 

· The world has no faith in our mortgage system right now. The Bank of China was the largest buyer of MBS (mortgage backed securities); basically they were buying our debt. The government had to step in and start buying because China has lost their faith in our system and stopped buying them.  They got burned from the foreclosures so many people had from the loose underwriting policies of lenders.  Not everyone should be a home owner – some need to be renters.

· So what are some other policy changes on the horizon at FHA?  Some noted changes that we will see in the coming months are…

o   Currently, the Streamline Refinance will allow you to refinance and give you a new fixed rate, no questions asked. No appraisal, no credit check and at 105% loan to value. In January, streamlined FHA Refinance’s will be full document loans with appraisals, etc. One of the reasons behind this is because a company, Fortress bought MBS and bought distressed assets, got them to perform, turned them into FHA loans, then streamline refinanced them and then went into default – with no recourse. Now, one true streamline refinance is left. It’s a refinance from balance to balance where the owner pays closing costs, etc. and it will stay in effect for a while. All other refinances through FHA will be subject to full document review.

o   Appraisals will see a new policy which takes the good parts of HVCC (House Values Code of Conduct) to create a new model. FHA would like to see more arms length transactions.   They are going to discontinue allowing the lender to order the appraisal because FHA feels they are too involved in the transaction as it is.  FHA is also working on shortening the term of getting another appraisal if a contract falls through and a new buyer purchases that home.  The new buyer will be assigned a new FHA case number and would not have to utilize the first appraisal.  Going forward, they would be able to get a new number and appraisal even if it’s within that 6 month window that is currently in place. Also, FHA is not mandating that lenders use an AMC (Appraisal Management Company) just the originator and appraiser cannot speak.  The lender could designate someone in their office to order the appraisals and that is acceptable with FHA. Additionally, the appraiser must know the local market in which they appraise.   There will not be a required mile radius for appraisers because of rural areas vs. suburban areas.  As agents we will also be able to deal with appraisal issues through dispute resolution which can be an issue for lenders who send appraisers without local knowledge and could result in litigation.

o   The capital reserves required for lenders to indemnify loans (loan loss) will go up to one million dollars immediately! Then $2.5 million in 2 years.  Again, 20% of that number has to be in tangible capital and even that number might change.  FHA wants lenders to have more skin in the game.  There will be more changes to come from Fannie, Freddie, etc. and for lenders who can participate with these programs will have to be more legit and have more money.

o   Brokers are not going to be approved by FHA.  They have no ability to pay for loans they originate that go into default. 

o   For Short sales, the Treasury Department and HUD have created a new process and it will take some time to figure it all out. There is a lot of concern with flips, unfair advantages of the system, etc.  These new guidelines roll out April 5th.  Dave is meeting with servicers on Monday to discuss these guidelines.  As we know, the government is pushing for loan modification.  Going forward, FHA will publish a scorecard monthly on how lenders are doing with loan modifications.  FHA is very concerned about moving distressed properties off the market while their main concern is keeping people in their homes.  Short sales guidelines discussion started in July.  FHA felt that we put too many people in houses who couldn’t afford them, now they have to do something to fix it.  Not every bank will sign up for the new program.  To see who is participating, a list of the banks that will be uploaded on the HAMP website.  A couple of large banks refuse to participate and they didn’t take tarp money, so there is nothing FHA can do to make them abide by the guidelines.  

We have heard about some policy changes at Fannie such as the increase in minimum credit scores and lower debt to income ratios, can you speak to these changes?

· Fannie is going to 640 min credit scores and FHA is going to follow suit shortly more than likely.

· 18% of borrowers with FHA loans are in default and FHA feels that raising the FICOscore will lower that default rate.  As of the beginning of 2009, the average FICO score of an FHA borrower is 693 and virtually none of those borrowers are in default. The previous problems in 2004-2008 was in the down payment assistance programs which caused $10.4 billion in losses going forward…it was a disaster. 

If 2009 programs are working, then why change now?

· FHA forecasters are concerned about a double dip in home prices. Home price forecasts that at a minimum there will be another 9-10% drop in home prices through the first quarter of 2010…nationwide. They are looking at current unemployment trends as a huge factor in determining this drop.  It has been forecasted to remain high and as such, we are looking at a jobless recovery. Surprisingly, 2009 has been the best quality book (year economically overall) in a long time.

· Scenario forecasting in a jobless recovery shows that you won’t get the home appreciation rates that you normally would. Growth is predicted at .7% over the inflation rate which is very low and will take several years to have housing prices come back to the levels they are today. They are looking for ways to make it work to avoid another bailout.

· The real estate industry will be a better industry once it’s all done with better lenders in business.  FHA is looking at the rent vs. own index, MSA (Metropolitan Service Area) by MSA, borrower behavior, etc. in order to make cautious decisions as we bottom out and experience a  slow recovery.  Some factors, if not approached soon enough, could have us go into a recession again.

So what’s next – with the extended tax credit, no more government purchase of MBS, there will be a raise in rates, fewer first time home buyers, and then a predicted foreclosure release in the second quarter of 2010?

· Dave said there is an expected ¾ to 1 ½ point rate increase when the Fed backs out of the market (the Fed has already spent $1 trillion and has committed to spend a total of $1.4 trillion).  At this time the government is not buying Ginnie Mae MBS as they are selling verywell in foreign markets. China continues to waitand doesn’t want to start buying again until we decide what we are going to do with Fannie and Freddie. If the government doesn’t continue to purchase MBS, then the MBS will become worthless.  Banks who have huge deposits with no loan demand and may possibly start buying MBS to offset their deposits.  When the Fed pulls out, we will feel an immediate effect of an increase that is expected to be 300-600 basis points above current interest rates which equates to .75% to 1½% in rate increase.

· Before the Fed bought MBS, rates were up 1 ½% above where they are today , so they think that will be the premium to get investors to start purchasing MBS. Currently, we are totally dependent on foreign capital to keep our housing market afloat and America is bankrupt in that department.

· The tax credit is the single biggest expense of the government.  The government stimulus is an artificial growth for the economy.  A lot of people in the government want out of helping the housing market.  They feel they have done enough.  By slowly pulling out of purchasing MBS and discontinuing the tax credit, the housing market should be able to sustain itself.

· If the Chinese economy starts to take a downturn, the first asset they are likely to sell will be US Treasuries and then we’ll really feel it because currently they are the largest buyer of US Treasuries!

· There is a legislative cap of $1.4 trillion for the rest of MBS that the government will buy and they might hit that cap before the program is phased out.  

· So Dave’s advice for Realtors is to be prepared and look forward for what is going to happen, keep growing, invest in your business, get back to basics, don’t deal with uncontrollable and drive forward.

· The government has no money, social security will run out on paper, but the money is already spent. In order to buy these MBS, they have to sell debt; the more debt auctions will drive prices up, so have to drop the price for debts and treasuries which would almost equal the cost for the debt. The spread will have to be there or it’s not good for taxpayer.

· Dave’s big concern is about the disadvantaged as well as sustaining safe housing for all.

· FHA’s HAMP loan modification program, where they tack the excess loan balance due to the back of loan and adjust the payment to a level to a level they can afford, has a 96.6% success rate for no defaults. The majority of the distressed market is due to cultural and language barriers. Dave’s asked for a budget of $75 million for next year to add more counseling services in distressed communities.

· Hardship will be a big factor in the new short sales guidelines. Too many people are taking advantage of the process which is a moral hazard.

· Condo approvals will be more stringent. They will have a permanent policy in place soon and currently have a temporary policy in place.

In closing….

FHA needs to back out of the market and get back to why it was created; Freddie and Fannie can’t be government owned forever and a lot of work has to be done in the process.

Anyone who predicts the future is wrong, homeownership=community stability.  Agents are the key to this recovery. They did it all wrong and the only way to get out is with the real estate agent.

We need to get faith back in the system. Safe act for loan officers, RESPA changes, etc. are just the beginning of the changes that have to take place to stabilize the industry.  

Finally, be excited about the work you do and remember, you are key to the economic recovery.

Numbers, Short Sales and Taxation…oh my!!!

ScottsCam 001

Wow!  Lots of great info was shared today at training
– numbers, top ten questions ready to be answered, short sales in any market
and then Aronson & Company notes on taxation of debt forgiveness.

 

Numbers (in Northern Virginia)

 

  • Active (Sales)                                      5414
  • Vacant                                                 1597
  • % of Market                                         29.5%
  • Month Supply (For Sale)                      1.8
  • Month Supply (For Rent)                     2.2
  • Month Supply Sold                              2.1

 

 

Top Ten Questions – ready
to be answered!

 

  1. Is the housing market getting better?
  2. When will housing bottom out?
  3. What signals should I watch to determine
    whether my local market is improving?
  4. How can I figure out the value of my home?
  5. Does it matter whether I’m ‘under water’?
  6. If I lose my home to foreclosure, how long
    will it take to repair my credit record?
  7. If I’m renting, is now a good time to buy a
    house?
  8. Can I get a tax credit if I buy a home now?
  9. Can I get a mortgage on attractive terms?
  10. Should I invest in foreclosed homes?

 

 

Aronson & Company
Notes

 

·       
Cancellation
of debt is a taxable event

·       
Bankruptcy
does protect from tax liability from a tax liability that occurred prior to
bankruptcy.

·       
Deed in Lieu
of Foreclosure – similar to short sale – selling to third party with bank’s
approval. 

·       
Loan
Modifications can also result in cancellation of debt and the modifier may
receive a 1099 from the lender – be aware this is could possibly happen!

·       
The discharge
of acquisition debt secured by the taxpayer’s principal residence is excluded
from income up to $2,000,000 until December 31, 2012.  This date is subject to change.


For a complete chart of
the implications of the Taxation of Debt Forgiveness handout we received call
or email me and we will get it to you. 
As is always the case – you learn more by listening, taking notes and
reading the materials than you do by reading my synopsis – get to training
yourself to internalize it more!  Get
it?  Got it?  Good!

 

Now, go sell something!

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Mortgage Fraud

As a leader in real estate, I am repeatedly asked specific questions about today's market – especially in today's economy. In an effort to provide more information to my community, I commited to providing current information that everyone may find useful. Here are the ways you can protect yourself from fraud….

Many of the challenges homeowners and home buyers are confronting today are the result of unscrupulous mortgages extended over the past several years. Help protect yourself during the home buying process with these tips from the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, www.AmericanHomeowners.org, or in Canada, with tips found at www.genworth.ca:

1. Deal only with reputable mortgage bankers or mortgage brokers.
Get recommendations from neighbors and friends who dealt with them as customers. Check on the mortgagor’s record with the local Better Business Bureau and state licensing authority. As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I can also provide you with many credible mortgage resources.

2. Ask how long they have been in the business,
and be wary of working with someone with less than five years experience, no matter how reputable their employer may be.

3. Unlike professional real estate agents like myself, mortgagors owe you no fiduciary duty. While it is in the long-term interest of mortgage lenders and brokers to treat consumers fairly, for many, that doesn’t stand in the way of charging higher fees or interest rates. Always get quotes from at least three mortgage lenders and/or brokers, and make sure each one knows you are doing so.

4. Since you’ll be providing them the most comprehensive personal financial information you’ll ever provide any company, ask the lender to describe their data security policies, both online and offline.

5. To reduce the likelihood of overpaying for a home, make sure that you review recent selling prices for similar homes in the same neighborhood before you make an offer. I can provide you with a detailed analysis of the homes in our communities.

6. Set aside some extra money for closing costs. One of the vexations of real estate financing are the differences in estimated settlement costs on the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) forms, and the actual settlement costs, which very often include several hundred additional dollars worth of previously undisclosed and creatively named fees.

7. Pick the right kind of mortgage. Interest rates are higher on 30 year fixed rate loans than on 15 year fixed rate loans. Adjustable rate mortgages are always a gamble. You may well save money over the first few years if interest rates are dropping, but predicting their direction further out is very speculative. Prepayment penalties can more than offset any savings if the rates go up after that and you want to refinance.

8. Get pre-approved for your loan.
Even though there is a glut of homes for sale in most areas right now, a mortgage loan pre-approval is essential to many sellers, and gives a big negotiating advantage to buyers in almost all cases.

9. It is important to review loan documents in advance and understand all the terms. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try to avoid loans with prepayment penalties if at all possible.

10. Save all the copies of all documents
you receive and/or provide mortgage lenders or brokers.