Posts Tagged Freddie Mac

Why Millions of Americans Still Can’t Refinance Their Mortgage


By: Diana Olick

CNBC Real Estate Reporter

Mortgage rates hit new lows and applications to refinance fell for the third straight week. It defies logic, unless of course you operate in today’s tight mortgage market.

It’s not just about the rate anymore. Negative equity, strict underwriting and big bank backlogs are keeping many borrowers from taking advantage of these incredibly low mortgage rates.

“If history is any lesson, the only thing that can really extend refi activity in a low rate environment is a loosening of underwriting standards to bring more borrowers into the market. And that is not likely to happen anytime soon,” said Guy Cecala of Inside Mortgage Finance.

Twice this year the market did see a surge in refinancing, all due to changes in government programs.

At the beginning of the year, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (still under government conservatorship), expanded the Home Affordable Refinance Program for borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The limit used to be 25 percent negative equity, but in January, that limit was lifted entirely.

Then in June, the FHA changed the rules on its streamline refi program for borrowers who already have FHA loans, dropping underwriting almost entirely. While both changes sparked temporary surges, they were not enough to serve the entire market.

“We are definitely running out of borrowers to refi even with mortgages rates at record lows. Most of the activity we have seen in recent months are the same borrowers who refinanced a year or so ago, refinancing again. While programs like HARP and FHA’s Streamlined Refi can provide a temporary surge in refis, they still only account for a relatively small share of borrowers,” Cecala noted.

Government-backed mortgages (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae) accounted for 58 percent of the $10.179 trillion U.S. mortgage market as of the end of March, 2012, according to data compiled by Inside Mortgage Finance.

Private-label mortgage-backed securities (MBS) investors held 10 percent and banks/other financial institutions held 32 percent.  It’s that non-government, 42 percent of the market that is having the most trouble refinancing due to poor credit scores and negative equity. Lenders and investors are particularly risk-averse these days.

Thursday the Obama Administration will renew its push for a major refinancing program that would involve all loans, but it would need congressional approval. There are several proposals under consideration.

The “Responsible Homeowners Refinancing Act,” sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Robert Menendez, D-NJ, would expand the HARP program, extending streamlined refinancing for Fannie and Freddie borrowers and eliminating up-front fees and appraisal costs. Jaret Seiberg at Guggenheim Partners puts the odds of that passing at around 60 percent.

Seiberg is less optimistic about another bill that would allow non-agency mortgages refinance into FHA loans, regardless of negative equity. The bill would raise GSE (Fannie and Freddie) guarantee fees to offset its costs.

“MBS investors are likely in for a bumpy ride. As we believe Congress will not enact the legislation, there should not be any changes to prepayment rates. Yet the market is likely to react to every headline, which suggests significant volatility,” Seiberg wrote.

Still, the White House will hold a webcast Thursday with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, along with a consumer-friendly interactive refi website. This “Google+ Hangout” will be hosted by real estate website Zillow [Z  38.77    -0.10  (-0.26%)   ], and Zillow’s CEO Spencer Rascoff will join in the conversation. Donovan and Rascoff will answer consumers’ questions, knowing full well that the answer to many will be, ‘Right now you don’t qualify for a refinance.’

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30-year mortgage rate hits record low of 3.67% – Marketwatch


By Ruth Mantell

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Mortgage rates hit record lows in the week ending June 7, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage average declining to 3.67% from 3.75% in the prior week, Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly report. These data go back to 1971. The rate was 4.49% a year earlier. To obtain the latest 30-year rate, payment of an average 0.7 point was required, according to Freddie, a buyer of residential mortgages. “Fixed mortgage rates reached new record lows for the sixth consecutive week as long-term Treasury bond yields declined further following downwardly revised economic growth and job creation data,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also hit a record low in the most recent week, falling to 2.94% from 2.97% in the prior week. These data go back to 1991. Meanwhile, the average rate on the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage remained at 2.84%. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM rose to 2.79% from 2.75%

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Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars Are Back (WSJ)


Note from TMN:

This is an interesting article and the Vail Valley has seen some of the same bidding wars, particularly in the lower end of the market.  Personally, I’ve made two offers recently for buyers and we were out bid by another buyer.  There is a tremendous appetite for bank owned properties.  Looking at Eagle County foreclosure sales, we should peak this year and start seeing fewer foreclosures next year. 

Much of it has to do with declining inventories.  This graph shows what is happening in the Vail Valley with inventory.  We are slowly but surely moving back to a more “normal” market although I don’t expect to hit the highs of the bubble before the recession. 

 

A new development is catching home buyers off guard as the spring sales season gets under way: Bidding wars are back.

From California to Florida, many buyers are increasingly competing for the same house. Unlike the bidding wars that typified the go-go years and largely reflected surging sales, today’s are a result of supply shortages.

“It’s a little surprising because we thought bidding wars were done with,” said Andy Aley, who is looking to buy his first home in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The 31-year-old attorney was outbid this year when he offered up to $23,000 above the $357,000 listing price and agreed to waive inspections and other closing conditions.

Competitive bidding in the current environment isn’t producing huge price increases or leaving sellers with hefty profits, as occurred during the housing boom. Still, the bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump.

An index that measures the number of contracts signed to purchase previously owned homes rose in March to its highest level in nearly two years, up 12.8% from a year ago and 4.1% from February, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.

“We very much believe we’ve hit bottom,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of a research firm, who was among the first to warn of a downturn seven years ago. Earlier this week, she raised her home-price forecast for the year, calling for a 1% annual gain, up from a 1% decline.

The Wall Street Journal’s quarterly survey found that the inventory of homes listed for sale declined sharply in all 28 markets tracked. Real-estate agents consider a market balanced when there is a six-month supply of homes for sale. At the height of the housing crisis, in 2008, there was an 11.1-months’ supply. In March, there was a 6.3-months’ supply.

Inventory levels in many markets were at the lowest level in years. At the current pace of sales, it would take just 1.5 months to sell all the homes listed in Sacramento, Calif., and 2.4 months to sell all the homes listed in Phoenix. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., each have 3.4 months of supply, while Miami has 4.1 months of supply.

Other markets have plenty of homes. Chicago, for example, has 9.4 months of supply, while New York’s Long Island has 16.1 months of supply. Even in those markets, the number of houses for sale is edging down.

Increased competition is frustrating buyers and their agents. “We’re writing a record number of offers, but we’re not seeing a record number of closings and that’s because it’s so competitive,” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. in Seattle with offices in 14 states.

Nearly 83% of offers that Redfin agents have made on behalf of clients in the San Francisco Bay area this year and 71% in Southern California have had competing bids. Redfin represented a buyer that made the winning bid on a Gaithersburg, Md., home earlier this month after agreeing to adopt the dog of the seller, who was relocating and looking to find a new home for “Buddy,” a white toy poodle.

Inventories are declining for a number of reasons. Some sellers, unwilling to accept prices that are still down from their peak by one-third, are taking their homes off the market in anticipation of higher prices down the road. Meanwhile, investors have been outmaneuvering consumers for the best properties, often making cash offers that are quickly accepted by sellers.

In addition, some economists say that inventory levels are being held artificially low because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the nation’s biggest banks have been slow to list for sale hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes they currently own. The lenders slowed down foreclosure sales and repossessions after record-keeping abuses surfaced 18 months ago.

Banks and other mortgage investors owned nearly 450,000 foreclosed properties at the end of March, and another two million mortgages were in some stage of foreclosure.

Inventories could rise, putting more pressure on prices, if the banks and other lenders step up their efforts to sell their properties. Real-estate agents say they aren’t concerned. “There’s an enormous appetite for foreclosures. Release the inventory. It will sell,” said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Coldwell Banker and Century 21 real-estate brands.

The declining inventory of older homes is spurring sales of new homes. New home sales are up 16% so far this year, compared with a year ago, while inventories of new homes fell in March to their lowest level since record keeping began in 1963.

Meritage Homes Corp., a builder based in Scottsdale, Ariz., reported Thursday a 36% increase in orders for the quarter ending in March versus the previous-year period.

Even though bidding wars are pushing prices higher, many homes are still selling for prices far lower than a few years ago. Increased demand is “entirely affordability driven, which tells me there will be strong resistance to price increases” by buyers, says Jeffrey Otteau, president of Otteau Valuation Group, an East Brunswick, N.J., appraisal firm.

Rents are rising at a time when mortgage rates have fallen to very low levels. The result is that the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home is lower than any time since the 1990s. Freddie Mac reported on Thursday that mortgage rates fell to 3.88% for the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage, near its lowest recorded level.

Rates are “so low that we can afford a house that was out of our price range before,” said Aarthi Srinivasan, who is looking with her husband for a home around Palo Alto, Calif., one of the country’s hottest real-estate markets.

Ms. Srinivasan says she fears that prices are being bid up too quickly. She says she had her “aha moment” earlier this year while touring a 50-year-old house that needed extensive remodeling. The home, listed at $1.1 million, received nearly 10 offers and eventually went under contract for more than $1.3 million to a buyer who hadn’t even viewed the property.

“There are only so many buyers who are going to be in such a hurry, so we’re hoping it’ll top off soon,” she says. On Monday, they offered to pay more than the $1.2 million list price for a four-bedroom, bank-owned foreclosure. They haven’t found out if they made the top bid.

On the other side of those transactions are sellers like Debbie and Bill Wetherell, who had 17 offers in four days for their four-bedroom home in Danville, Calif. “I was floored. It was so fast, it was surreal,” says Ms. Wetherell. The home sold on Wednesday for $796,000, more than $50,000 above the asking price.

Still, the sale is for nearly $180,000 less than what they paid for the house in 2005. Ms. Wetherell’s husband has commuted to Reno, Nev., for five years and they have decided to relocate.

Housing markets face other headwinds. More than 11 million homeowners owe more than their home is worth. It is a big reason that the “trade-up” market has been stalled. These homeowners can’t sell their current homes, let alone come up with the down payment for their next home.

Mortgage-lending standards remain tough. Real-estate agents say an unusually high share of deals are falling apart because homes won’t appraise at the price that buyers have agreed to pay sellers.

Still, borrowers with stable jobs are looking to make deals. Kelly Pajela-Fu and her husband offered to pay the asking price of $600,000 for a four-bedroom home in Marblehead, Mass., within a day of the property hitting the market.

“We just knew this house would go quickly,” says Ms. Pajela-Fu, a 31-year-old doctor who had lost out on an earlier offer. Their strategy to avoid a bidding war paid off: The sellers accepted their offer before having an open house.

Write to Nick Timiraos at nick.timiraos@wsj.com

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Marketwatch: 30-year mortgage rate at record low 3.88%


By Ruth Mantell

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – The average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked down to a record low of 3.88% in the week ended Jan. 19 from 3.89% in the prior week, Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly report. These data go back to 1971. A year ago, the 30-year rate was at 4.74%. “Mortgage rates were nearly unchanged this holiday week” amid mixed economic reports, said Frank Nothaft, Freddie’s chief economist, in a statement. To obtain the latest rate, payment of an average 0.8 point was required, according to Freddie, a buyer of residential mortgages. A point is 1% of the mortgage amount, charged in prepaid interest. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked higher to 3.17% in the latest week from a record low of 3.16% in the prior week. These data go back to 1991. Meanwhile, the average rate on the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage remained at 2.82%, matching the record low set in the prior week. These data go back to 2005. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM fell to a record low of 2.74% from 2.76%. These data go back to 1984.

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30-year fixed-rate mortgage falls to 4.71%


By Ruth Mantell

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 4.71% in the week ending May 5, hitting the lowest level since January, down from 4.78% in the prior week, according to a survey released Thursday by Freddie Mac, a buyer of residential mortgages. Last year, the rate was at 5.00%. To obtain the latest rate, payment of an average 0.7 point was required. A point is 1% of the mortgage amount, charged in prepaid interest. “Weaker economic data reports reduced Treasury bond yields and allowed mortgage rates to drift lower for the third consecutive week,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, in a statement. The rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.89% in the latest week, down from 3.97% in the prior week. The rate on the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.47%, down from 3.51%. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.14%, down from 3.15%.

Note from TMN:  This is good news although I expect rates to rise at QE2 ends this summer.  Our current problem is not the rates themselves but the underwriter guidelines which continue to be very strict.  We certainly needed some correction in the guidelines but the pendulum swung so far that it is nearly impossible even for well qualified buyers to find financing.  We need a little more common sense from the lenders to revive the housing market. 

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