South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Mortgage Rates Return To April 2010 Levels

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on February 11, 2011

Mortgage rates (Feb 2010 - Feb 2011)

Mortgage rates are surging.

Over the last 7 days, conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates have jumped 24 basis points, or 0.24%, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

It’s the largest 1-week spike in mortgage rates in recent history.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage now averages 5.05% nationally. This is much, much higher than what we saw last November when mortgage rates were 4.17% and looked headed to the 3s.

That’s not the case today. In fact, it’s the opposite. 

Mortgage rates have risen quickly and fiercely this year. As of this morning, mortgage rates are higher over 9 consecutive days, marking the longest mortgage rate losing streak in the last 6 years, at least.

Note, however, that when you call your loan officer or bank, you may not be quoted the same 5.05% rate as shown by Freddie Mac. This is because Freddie Mac-reported rates are national averagesAny given mortgage rate may be higher or lower depending on its region. 

As an illustration, look how this week’s rates breaks down by area:

  • Northeast : 5.07 with 0.7 points
  • Southeast : 4.99 with 0.9 points
  • North Central : 5.09 with 0.6 points
  • Southeast : 5.06 with 0.6 points
  • West : 5.02 with 0.8 points

In other words, the rate-and-fee combination you’d be offered in your home town of Coto de Caza is different from what you’d be offered if you lived somewhere else. In the Southeast, rates tend to be low and fees tend to be high; in the North Central U.S., it’s the opposite.

The good news is that, as a mortgage applicant, you can have your pricing whichever way you prefer. If getting the absolute lowest mortgage rate is what’s most important to you, have your loan officer structure your loan as in the “Southeast Style”. Or, if you prefer to have as few closing costs as possible and don’t mind slightly higher rates, ask for that type of set-up instead.

Either way, consider locking your rate as soon as possible. If rates keep rising, it won’t be long before they touch 6 percent.

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Foreclosure Activity Drops Throughout The Most Foreclosure-Heavy States

Posted in Foreclosures by southorangecounty on February 10, 2011

Foreclosure Change By State (January 2011)

Foreclosure activity is slowing. According to foreclosure-tracker RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings dropped 17 percent on an annual basis last month. Monthly filings ticked higher 1 percent after a combined 23 percent decrease through November and December 2010.

The phrase “foreclosure filing” is a catch-all term, comprising default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions. 

January marked the third straight month of sub-300,000 filings after 20 straight months above it.

As compared to January 2010, six of the nation’s 10 most foreclosure-heavy states posted an annual foreclosure filing reduction. The remaining four showed modest worsening.

It’s noteworthy that states like California and Florida posted declines of 7 percent and 54 percent, respectively, and that Nevada posted a relatively-low 3 percent gain. These three states have been at the leading edge of foreclosure activity since 2007. Their subsequent recoveries, therefore, may foreshadow a better housing market ahead.

Or, this may be lasting effects from the “robo-signer” controversy.

Regardless, home buyers in California continue to clamor for distressed homes.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, properties in various stages of the foreclosure and short sale process are selling at discounts in the range of 10-15 percent so it’s no wonder they now account for 36 percent of all home resales. Buying a foreclosure can be a great “deal”.  They can be more trouble and cost than they’re worth.

Therefore, If you’re in the market for a foreclosed home in the Orange County area , be sure to speak with a licensed real estate agent. The process of buying a distressed home is different from buying a non-distressed home. An experienced professional can help make sure you negotiate your best possible price.

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Mortgage Rates Rise For The 7th Straight Day

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on February 9, 2011

Mortgage rates risingMortgage markets worsened for the 7th straight day Tuesday, equaling the longest losing streak of the last 5 years.

Conventional, 30-year fixed mortgage rates are now scratching 5 percent, with FHA mortgage rates running roughly the same.

This is a huge increase from just 11 weeks ago when mortgage rates were riding an 8-month-long hot streak, and appeared headed into the 3s. Then the Federal Reserve intervened.

On November 3, as additional support for markets, the Fed announced its second round of bond buys, a $600 billion program dubbed QEII — short for Quantitative Easing, Round II. Wall Street got spooked on the news; investors feared runaway inflation.

That’s when low rates ended. Here’s why:

(A) Inflation makes the U.S. dollar lose its value,

And, (B) U.S. mortgage bond payments are paid in U.S. dollars.

Therefore, (C) Inflation makes mortgage bond repayments lose their value.

When mortgage bond repayments are worth less, bond demand falls among the global investor set and that causes bond prices to fall along with it. When bond prices fall, mortgage rates rise and that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now.

Since the Fed’s QEII announcement, mortgage rates have soared and home affordability is taking a hit.

Given recent trends, it’s probably safe to declare the Refi Boom “officially over” and the era of low mortgage rates may be over, too.  Home prices may move up or down in Trabuco Canyon this year, but rising mortgage rates could render the point moot. If you’re looking for a great “deal” with low, long-term payments, the time to get in contract may be now.

Because of rising rates, homeowners have lost roughly 10% of their purchasing power since November.

Image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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Adjustable Rate Mortgages Adjusting To 3.000 Percent Right Now

Posted in Adjustable Rate Mortgages by southorangecounty on February 8, 2011

ARM adjustment rates for 2011

If your ARM is due to adjust this spring, your best move may be to allow it. Don’t rush to refinance — your rate may be adjusting lower.

It’s because of how adjusted mortgage rates are calculated.

First, let’s look at the lifecycle of a conventional, adjustable rate mortgage:

  1. There’s a “starter period” of several years in which the interest rate remains fixed.
  2. There’s an initial adjustment to rate after the starter period. This is called the “first adjustment”.
  3. There’s a subsequent adjustment until the loan’s term expires. The adjustment is usually annual.

The starter period will vary from 1 to 10 years, but once that timeframe ends, and the first adjustment occurs, conventional ARMs enter a lifecycle phase that is common among all ARMs — regular rate adjustments based on some pre-set formula until the loan is paid in full, and retired.

For conventional ARMs adjusting in 2011, that formula is most commonly defined as:

(12-Month LIBOR) + (2.250 Percent) = (Adjusted Mortgage Rate)

LIBOR is an acronym for London Interbank Offered Rate. It’s the rate at which banks borrow money from each other. It’s also the variable portion of the adjustable mortgage rate equation. The corresponding constant is typically 2.25%.

Since March 2010, LIBOR has been low and, as a result, adjusting mortgage rates have been low, too.

In 2009, 5-year ARMs adjusted to 6 percent or higher. Today, they’re adjusting near 3.000 percent.

That’s a big shift. 

Therefore, strictly based on mathematics, letting your ARM adjust this year could be smarter than refinancing it. You may get yourself a lower rate.

Either way, talk to your loan officer. With mortgage rates still near historical lows, Coto de Caza homeowners have interesting options. Just don’t wait too long. LIBOR — and mortgage rates in general — are known to change quickly.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : February 7, 2011

Posted in Weekly Review by southorangecounty on February 7, 2011

Unemployment Rate (2009-2011)Mortgage markets worsened last week as Wall Street came to terms with the expanding economy; and realized the Federal Reserve may be trying to induce inflation.

Better-than-expected retail sales and positive job growth buoyed stock markets and sank bonds.

Mortgage rates in California rose for the 4th time in 5 weeks last week, extending a losing streak which dates back 4 months.

Today, fixed, conforming rates are three-quarters of a percent higher as compared to the market’s low point, November 3, 2010. For a $200,000 home loan, that size rate hike equates to an increase in a monthly mortgage payment of $89 per month.

Mortgage rates are at their highest levels of the year and, this week, they may continue ticking higher.

There isn’t much data set for release this week so markets will take their cues from two major events — one economic and one political.

The major economic event is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony to the House Budget Committee late-Wednesday. Chairman Bernanke is expected to speak about employment, but will likely touch on other topics of import including economic growth, the U.S. dollar, and the nation’s debt ceiling.

The Fed Chairman’s comments will move mortgage rates in one direction or the other, so locking in advance of his testimony may be prudent. Mortgage rates have more room to rise than to fall, after all.

The second major event is Egypt’s ongoing political strife. By Thursday of last week, Wall Street had shrugged off the region’s crisis and unwound the safe-haven trades that had helped mortgage rates during the week prior.

If instability returns, mortgage rates, once again, will be pressured lower.

Regardless of your rate-locking plan for this week, it’s important to recognize that, although rates have risen, they’re still well below historical average. Therefore, rates may have a lot of room to move higher, still.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, or are now under contract, consider locking your rate as soon as possible.

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Unemployment Rate Drops To Lowest In 2 Years

Posted in Jobs by southorangecounty on February 4, 2011

Non-Farm Payrolls (2009-2011)Americans are getting back to work. Sort of.

This morning, at 8:30 AM ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for January 2011. More commonly called “the jobs report”, the government’s data showed a large decrease in the number of working Americans as compared to December, but a sizable drop in the Unemployment Rate.

The job growth figures were much lower than consensus estimates:

  • Expected job growth in January : +148,000 jobs
  • Actual job growth in January : +36,000 jobs

January’s Unemployment Rate surprised analysts, too, but not in a bad way, falling from 9.4 percent in December to 9.0 percent last month. This is the nation’s lowest Unemployment Rate in nearly 2 years.

Today’s jobs report is rough news for home buyers and rate shoppers in Trabuco Canyon. Shortly after the report’s release, Wall Street is attributing the low jobs number to “bad weather” and is choosing to focus on the strong Unemployment Rate instead.

U.S. stock futures are now rising ahead of open, an increase that will come at the expense of the bond markets. Indeed, mortgage-backed bonds are losing this morning already.

Conforming mortgage rates are expected to start the day at least +0.125% from Thursday’s close and, if momentum continues, could tack on an additional +0.125% before today’s closing bell.

The government’s report is an excellent example of how important jobs data can be to home affordability — especially in a recovering economy.

The economy shed 7 million jobs between 2008 and 2009 and fewer than 1 million of those were recovered in 2010. It’s a data point Wall Street watches closely because more working Americans means more consumer spending, and more consumer spending means more economic growth. Consumers account for 70% of the U.S. economy, after all.

More workers also means more taxes paid to federal, state and local government, and, in theory, fewer loan charge-offs from banks. These, too, keep the economic engine moving forward, spurring more spending and job growth. 

If you have not yet locked a mortgage rate, consider locking one today. On the heels of today’s jobs data, 30-year fixed rates will scratch at their highest levels of the year.

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Mortgage Guidelines Starting To Loosen?

Posted in Mortgage Guidelines by southorangecounty on February 3, 2011

Fed Lending Guidelines Q4 2010Mortgage lending appears to be loosening. At least for now.

In its quarterly survey of member banks, the Federal Reserve asks senior loan officers around the country whether their “prime” residential mortgage guidelines had tightened within the last 3 months.

A prime borrower is one with a well-documented credit history, high credit scores, and a low debt-to-income ratio.

Of the 54 responding banks, just 2 said its guidelines had tightened during the period October-December 2010. That’s less than 4 percent. And, by comparison, 95 percent of banks said guidelines remained “basically unchanged”.

The remaining banks reported a loosening.

It’s a positive sign for the housing market, and for home buyers in Coto de Caza and nationwide. If banks have stopped raising the hurdles of home loan approval, in theory, more would-be buyers will be approved.

It’s much tougher to get a home loan versus 5 years ago. Delinquencies and defaults have changed how banks review loan applications. Today’s underwriters are more conservative with respect to household income, total assets and overall credit scores.

Even as compared to January 2010, approval standards are higher : 

  • Minimum credit score requirements are higher
  • Downpayment/equity requirements are larger
  • Maximum allowable debt-to-income ratios have been lowered

Although mortgage rates remain low, qualification standards do not. Based on last quarter’s banking survey, however, mortgage applicants in California may find approvals easier to come by soon. Low rates don’t matter, after all, if you’re not eligible to get them.

The housing market is strong and lending looks to be loosening. It should help fuel the demand for homes in 2011, which will push supplies down and lead prices up. For homeowners that qualify, therefore, the best time to purchase a home may be sometime this spring.

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Practical Advice : How To Help Your Home Sell Faster

Posted in Home How To by southorangecounty on February 2, 2011

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

In December, home sales reached an 8-month high, recovering from the losses of last summer. Market momentum is positive across California , but that doesn’t mean every home is selling quickly — only some of them are.

So, if you’re a home seller and want (or need) to get your home sold quickly, take a listen to this 3-minute interview from NBC’s The Today Show. It’s loaded with practical sales advice for sellers.

As examples:

  • How to price your home relative to comparable homes for sale
  • Using home inspections to keep your contract on-track for closing
  • How much should be spent on your “home photos” that are shown online

The interview also covers about the 3 key places of a home on which to spend money — the kitchen, the living area, and the front facade. And for good reason — they’re emotional hooks for buyers that help sell homes.

In any market, selling a home can be a challenge. It can be easier by applying common sense.

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Pending Home Sales At The Highest Levels Since April 2010

Posted in Pending Home Sales by southorangecounty on February 1, 2011

Pending Home Sales June 2009 Dec 2010Another day, another strong report for housing.

The Pending Home Sales Index climbed 2 percent in December, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. A “pending home sale” is an existing home under contract to sell, but not yet closed.

Pending Home Sales are up for the fifth time in 6 months. The December reading is now its highest since the federal home buyer tax credit’s April 2010 contract deadline, and the figure is well north of the Pending Home Sales Index 3-year average.

Coupling this data with December’s strong Existing Homes Sales report (+12%) and its strong New Home Sales report (+17%), it’s clear that the housing market has past its trough and is in Recovery Mode.

Even consumer confidence is at an 8-month high.

On a regional basis, December’s Pending Home Sales Index varied as compared against November. The South region led the way, and the West region lagged.

  • Northeast Region: +1.8%
  • Midwest Region : +8.0%
  • South Region : +11.5%
  • West Region : -13.2%

Home buyers in areas such as Orange County would do well to study last month’s Pending Home Sales Index. It offers clues of what to expect during the spring buying season. For example, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, 80 percent of homes under contract close within 60 days.

Therefore, we can look at the December Pending Home Sales Index and project, with a high level of confidence, that home sales will be higher throughout February and March on a units-basis.

Furthermore, because the Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales reports show that housing stock is falling nationwide, spring buyers in Coto de Caza will notice find more competition for the available housing stock. As the Supply-and-Demand curve shifts towards sellers, home prices rise.

In other words, there’s no rush to buy a home, but as the year progresses, home prices are expected to rise, as are mortgage rates. This one-two combination will impact home affordability negatively. And the higher that mortgage rates go, the worse the damage.

Your home-buying dollar won’t go as far in 2011’s second half as it will go right now. If you have plans to buy a home in 2011, consider moving up your time-frame.

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