As if homeowners who are facing foreclosure don’t have enough to worry about, a multitude of loan modification scam artists have invaded the internet, public files and even foreclosure notices in newspapers in hopes of targeting their next victim. By identifying the top three modification scams and learning how to avoid them, at-risk homeowners can protect themselves (and their homes).
Never Pay For Mortgage Modification Assistance
Many desperate homeowners fall victim to scam artists who offer to provide them with assistance in the loan modification process for an exorbitant fee. Many times the scam artist who promises to provide assistance will require that the homeowner pay the fee upfront, after which they will provide very little assistance or simply take the money and run. Consumers should be aware that assistance and counseling services are offered for free through a number of reputable HUD approved counseling agencies.
Avoid Transferring The Deed
One popular scam that at-risk homeowners often face is the property deed scam in which scam artists promise to purchase the home in question, agreeing to let the desperate homeowner rent it out. They suggest that turning over the deed to a borrower with a better credit rating will offer additional financing opportunities, thus preventing the loss of the home. The scammer often promises to sell the home back to the homeowner, but in reality has no intention of doing so.
Many times the scam artist will sell the home to another buyer. In some instances, the crook will collect any processing fees, take the title to the home and any equity, and then leave the home to default. It is a good idea for consumers who are approached with a property deed scam to report it to the FTC.
Ignore Unrealistic Promises
Mortgage modification scammers often make promises to do such things as negotiate a solution to the foreclosure more quickly, process mortgage payments for the consumer while the negotiation is being worked out, or even guarantee a loan modification. Since the actual lender is the only one who can agree to a loan modification, and this solution requires additional processing time, overnight fixes are almost always scams. Additionally, consumers should never make mortgage payments to anyone other than their lender.
For additional information about mortgage modification scams and how to avoid them, or to receive assistance with working out a solution to avoid foreclosure, at-risk homeowners should contact someone with distressed property training and experience. In South Orange County, California, I am just such a person.
Last week’s economic news brought little housing-related content, but several economic reports in other sectors contributed to overall perceptions of the economy.
In a speech given in Sweden, Fed Vice President Stanley Fischer noted that the economy might be in a period of “secular stagnation.” This condition is expected to keep interest rates low for longer than expected.
A survey of small business owners showed that confidence increased by 0.70 in July. Job openings for June increased from 4.60 million to 4.70 million. Readings for several reports fell shy of expectations and new jobless claims were higher than expected.
Economic Readings Lower Than Expected, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise
Retail sales for July were flat and fell shy of June’s reading of 0.20 percent, which was also the expected reading for July. Retail sales except autos were also lower in July with a reading of 0.10 percent against the expected reading and June’s reading of 0.40 percent.
Weekly jobless claims were reported at 311,000 against expectations of 300,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 290,000 new jobless claims. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this was the highest reading since June.
New jobless claims were close to pre-recession levels which suggested a slower pace of layoffs. The four-week average of new jobless claims, which presents a less volatile reading than for weekly reports, rose by 2000 new jobless claims to a reading of 285,750.
Mortgage Rates Lower
Freddie Mac’s weekly survey reported lower mortgage rates last week. Average rates were as follows: 30-year fixed rate mortgages had a rate of 4.12 percent and were two basis points lower than the previous week.
Discount points averaged 0.60 percent against the prior week’s reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.24 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.27 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.97 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
A couple of good news bytes from last week included an increase in small business sentiment in July. The National Federation of Independent Business Index for July increased from June’s reading of 95.00 points to 95.70 points.
The federal government also reported that job openings increased from 4.60 million in May to 4.70 million in June.
Several housing-related reports are set for release this week. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Home Builder Index for August, which measures builder confidence in market conditions for newly built homes.
The Department of Commerce will release Housing Starts for July, and the National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for July. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release the minutes of its most recent meeting on Wednesday; this could provide details concerning the Fed’s recent monetary policy decisions, which include the wind-down of asset purchases under the current quantitative easing program.
An article from Tory Barringer, of DSNews.com, August 8th, 2014:
In an announcement on Thursday, analytics and decision management firm FICO said its new credit model, FICO Score 9, “introduces a more nuanced way to assess consumer collection information,” resulting in greater precision for lenders measuring a borrower’s credit stability. The model will be available to lenders through the country’s various reporting agencies starting in the fall.
“FICO Score 9 uses a more refined treatment of consumers with a limited credit history and those with accounts at collection agencies, so that lenders can grow their credit and loan portfolios more confidently,” said Jim Wehmann, EVP for Scores at FICO.
The key difference in the new model is that strikes from medical collections will have a lower impact, reflecting the relatively low level of credit risk they represent. From just that change, the company expects the median FICO score will increase by 25 points among consumers whose only credit dents come from unpaid medical debts.
FICO isn’t alone in its push to reassess how medical debts are reflected on a borrower’s credit profile. In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released the results of a study finding that credit scores may underestimate creditworthiness by as much as 10 points for consumers owing on medical costs and by up to 22 points for consumers who have repaid their debt.
Often, consumers aren’t even aware their debt has been sent to collections, CFPB said.
Another change in the FICO Score 9 model is that it will also discount any overdue payments that have already been made, leaving only unpaid collections as a mark.
While the changes may have a significant impact on approval rates for credit cards and auto loans, the effects will be more subtle for borrowers and lenders in the mortgage space, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for personal finance website Bankrate.com.
“These changes are going to be a positive for consumers, but it’s not something that moves the goalposts,” McBride said in a phone call. “These changes aren’t going to take a consumer with bad credit and suddenly make them appear as if they have good credit.”
Rather, for consumers whose credit scores sit on the threshold between poor, adequate, or good, the expected boost could make a difference in terms of required down payments or interest rates.
The Score 9 model also promises to help lenders make decisions on consumers with little to no credit history—though McBride doesn’t expect to see an immediate impact in mortgage approvals for credit-lacking millennials.
However, if those young consumers have an easier time securing lines on smaller loans, however, that could balloon out into the mortgage space in the future.
“You [have to] knock over the dominoes,” McBride said.
Last week’s housing related news was minimal, but a Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers revealed that although credit standards for commercial and industrial loans as well as credit cards are easing, current mortgage credit standards are more stringent than in 2005. This could be a contributing factor to slowing housing market gains while other sectors of the economy are recovering at a faster pace.
Qualified Mortgage Rules Impact Non-Conforming Mortgages
The Senior Loan Officers survey also noted that qualified mortgage rules have slowed approval of prime jumbo mortgages and non-traditional home loans. This suggests that applicants falling outside of stringent qualified mortgage rules can expect challenges when buying or refinancing their homes.
In other housing news, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that last week’s mortgage rates were mixed. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.14 percent with discount points of 0.70 percent against last week’s reading of 4.12 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. 15-year mortgage rates averaged 3.27 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. This was an increase of four basis points, although discount points fell from 0.70 percent to 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.98 percent, a drop of two basis points, with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
Fewer Jobless Claims, Service-Related Business Growth Exceeds Expectations
The weekly Jobless Claims report brought a lower than expected reading of 289,000 new claims as compared to predictions of 305,000 new jobless claims. In other economic news, the Institute for Service Management (ISM) reported that its non-manufacturing index rose from June’s reading of 56.00 percent to 58.70 percent in July. Analysts had forecasted July’s reading at 56.50 percent. July’s reading represented the highest growth rate for service-related businesses since 2005.
According to the Department of Commerce, June factory orders rose by 1.10 percent over May’s reading of -0.60 percent against an expected reading of 0.60 percent. As business expands and factory orders increase, it’s likely that jobs and hiring will also grow. Steady employment is a compelling factor for most home buyers and positive reports in labor and industrial sectors could boost housing markets as more buyers increase demand for homes.
Next week’s economic reports include retail sales, retail sales excluding automotive, industrial production and the weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. While there isn’t much housing news expected next week, readings in other economic sectors can suggest potential trends in housing markets
An article by Brena Swanson, of HousingWire.com, August 7, 2014
Next year is projected to be the best year yet for the economy since the start of the recovery, with California’s state economy lining up to do better than the nation. And this positive trend is expected to continue for the next two years, a new report from Beacon Economics said.
But HousingWire isn’t happy to stop with just that. Scroll down to see 5 facts on the future of California’s housing.
First, here are the results of the Beacon report:
California’s economy will continue to steadily improve throughout the life of the state forecast in 2019. Employment growth is expected to settle in at 2.5% by 2016, and the state’s unemployment rate is forecast to drop below 6% by mid 2017 – about half of what it was at its peak in October 2010 (12.4%).
“Every metropolitan area in California has now returned to job growth,” says Jordan Levine, Beacon Economics’ director of economics. “Although the jobs and broader economic recovery has been more robust in some areas of the state than in others, the overall numbers are indicative of real, sustained improvement statewide.”
However, one of the biggest problems facing California is the rapidly rising cost of housing, driven by a lack of new supply.
“You can’t add jobs if there is no growth in the labor force because people are leaving because they can’t afford housing,” says Thornberg.
But things look positive for the next couple of years since there is sufficient slack in the labor market to allow for solid growth.” ( End of report.)
Here are the five facts that play into California’s housing future:
1. Home sales will rise!
First and foremost, home sales are set to rise in the Golden State! Although the rate of home sales needs some time to pick up, pick up it will. Home sales are estimated to continue on their upward trajectory over the next two years; however, the pace of growth will cool to the 4% to 6% range, a rate more in line with income growth. Home sales in California are forecast to rise by double-digit percentages in 2015. What’s more, the really, really pricey homes are already knocking it out of the park.
2. The state’s budget
The good news is that the state’s bottom line continues to heal, with the improvement trickling all the way to the financially strapped local governments as sales and property tax revenues rise across the state. According to Reuters, “California’s newest budget package of $152.3 billion in state spending emphasizes large increases for education, pays down debts, and proposes a 32-year plan to fully fund the teachers’ pension system.” That represents a three-decade investment that is a net positive for homeowners who must swallow the coming rise to their yearly tax bill, which averages close to three grand.
3. Tourists love it!
The state remains a top tourist destination as it keeps driving the economy forward with hotel occupancy at 73.4% statewide, 10 percentage points higher than the national average. According to TripAdvisor, there are precisely 12,246 things for tourists to do in California. That represents a robust and extensive opportunity for state and local economies that forever feeds financing to homeowners who work off the tourism trade.
4. The bad news
California faces a number of major structural challenges that keep the state’s economy from reaching its full potential, including hyper-cyclical budgeting, failure to address the state’s substantial long-term pension obligations, housing costs driven in significant part by abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act and a widening education gap relative to other states. And the state’s enduring drought will no doubt weigh on the agricultural sector, the main user of the state’s H2O.
5. And finally: jobs, jobs, jobs
Technological change will be a long-term challenge for California, and for all states. In commercial real estate, for example, traditional relationships between employment and commercial absorption are breaking down as more workers telecommute or work remotely. The job growth that used to propel new commercial construction activity is expected to have a smaller and smaller effect. And with more markets, such as North Texas, building larger tech sectors, skilled labor will continue to slowly bleed out of the state. Luckily, a surge in white collar jobs is helping to balance out this shift.
( End of Brena’s article.)
Last week’s economic news included a number of housing related reports. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent in June. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May noted that home prices are growing at a slower rate of 9.30 percent year-over-year than April’s year-over-year growth rate of 10.80 percent. Construction spending was also lower in June.
The Fed’s FOMC statement indicated that asset purchases connected to quantitative easing will cease in October, but that the current target federal funds rate is expected to stay in place “a considerable period” after asset purchases conclude. FOMC noted its concern over housing markets, which was based on slower home price growth and market activity.
Pending Home Sales, Home Price Growth Slower
Pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent nationwide in June. This was the first decrease in four months. Pending home sales rose by 1.10 percent in the Midwest and 0.20 percent in the West, but dropped by 2.90 percent in the Northeast and 2.40 percent in the South. Pending sales are measured by signed purchase contracts and provide an indicator of future completed sales and mortgage loan activity.
The 20-city Case-Shiller Home Price Index for May fell by 1.50 percent to a year-over-year reading of 9.30 percent from April’s 10.80 percent. No cities in the 20-city index reported declining home prices.
Construction spending fell by 1.80 percent in June against projections of an 0.30 percent increase in spending and May’s reading of an 0.80 percent increase. Reasons cited for lower construction spending included builder focus on high-demand areas. Builders have also indicated concerns about rising mortgage rates and tight loan requirements that impact numbers of home buyers that can qualify for home loans.
Mortgage Rates Little Changed, Fed Continues Wind-Down of Asset Purchases
According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates were little changed last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent as compared to 4.13 percent the prior week. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by three basis points to 3.23 percent with discount points higher by 10 basis points at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 2.38 percent with average discount points of 0.40 percent unchanged.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve issued its customary post-meeting statement on Wednesday. The FOMC plans to continue reducing asset purchase under the current quantitative easing program until the purchases cease in October. Although some analysts were concerned that the Fed may consider raising its target federal funds rate based on lower than expected unemployment figures, the FOMC said it doesn’t plan to raise the target federal funds “for a considerable time” after the QE purchases cease, but no specific timeline was given.
Labor Sector News
The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Labor Statistics posted a national unemployment rate of 6.20 percent for July, which was higher than expectations of a 6.00 percent national unemployment rate and June’s reading of 6.10 percent. To put these readings in perspective, the Fed had established an unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for winding down its asset purchases and potentially raising the target federal funds rate.
Non-farm payrolls reported 209,000 jobs added in July against projections of 235,000 jobs added and June’s reading of 298,000 jobs added. While July’s reading was lower, analysts said that job growth suggests ongoing recovery for labor markets. Labor markets have been cited in recent months as reasons for slower demand for homes and home builder skepticism.
Next week’s scheduled economic news contains no housing-related reports other than Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report.