Posts Tagged ‘mortgage loan limits’

How Will Loan Limit Changes Affect the Housing Market?

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

It’s one of the questions of the moment, and one that many real estate agents and mortgage brokers fear most at this time: what will happen to the housing market once the conforming loan limits drop at the end of September? How will buyers and sellers be affected, if at all?

Let’s start at the beginning: conforming loans are those that are eligible for guarantee by the government. Because of this, they tend to have lower interest rates. The cap on the amount that the government can guarantee used to be lower, but in 2008 Congress raised the cap to $729,750 in some markets (typically those with higher priced homes, like in California). This made lenders feel more secure in doling out loans, because they knew they would be covered by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac if the homeowner defaulted on the loan, thus making them less risky.

Also potentially on the chopping block are FHA limits, and lowering them could impact 40 states and hundreds of counties, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Since FHA backed loans are popular right now across a broad spectrum of buyers, this could also be a problem for those seeking to qualify for these types of loans. Many organizations, including NAR, have been making appeals to Congress to not allow limits to be reduced.

Come October 1 these higher limits are set to revert back to the old limits – $625,500 in some markets , such as pricier home markets like San Diego County. Many reports have predicted this will be a huge blow to buyers trying to qualify for loans, and some lenders are already starting to scrutinize current applications in light of the coming changes. How might this affect the borrower?

Interest rate increases: With loan limit decreases higher interest rates are likely. If a borrower needs a loan that exceeds the new caps she will need a jumbo loan, which has a higher rate. This may cause the buyer to look for homes that are smaller and cost less – or simply to hold off on buying. Either way this could effect housing market recovery.

Down payment increases: Buyers will need to make bigger down payments should they need loans that are over the lowered limits, in order to get jumbo loans. Again, this could lead to inventory stagnation in the middle part of the market, with buyers starting to focus on lower-priced homes or just opting to wait.

Price decreases: With the changes in loan limits and thus, buyers being able to qualify, comes the inevitable – sellers may have to reduce home prices to entice buyers to buy (so that they can qualify for a loan without having to get a jumbo loan).

Given the current state of the housing market and economy, this move to reduce loan limits doesn’t seem like a good one…however, there is a ray of hope in the scenario: if you are a buyer you could benefit immensely from prices going down. You may have to adjust your criteria a bit – maybe a smaller home or one that needs a little TLC, but all in all it could have a positive outcome for buyers. Sellers are the ones who will have a more difficult time with the changes.

Buyers still have time to research, find a home and lock in a rate. If you are a seller, you still have time to price your home WELL. This is certainly not the time for overpriced listings, so have a frank discussion with your agent and utilize the comparables to come up with a price that will get those buyers in the door.

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Weekly Real Estate News REcap 7/8/11

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Obama Administration Extends Foreclosure Programs for the Unemployed. Those who are unemployed and have an FHA loan will soon be given up to a year of forbearance on their payments, giving them time to find a new job before losing their homes. This announcement arose from the fact that many Americans are unemployed for more than three months, making the current forbearance period (4 months) unfair in giving the homeowner a chance to get caught up and not lose their homes. Missed payments, plus interest, will be added on to the back end of the loan. The new program will start August 1 and last for 2 years.

Loan Limit Changes are on the Horizon. Starting October 1, unless Congress decides to be realistic and  prevent the change, federal conforming loan limit maximums will change from $729,750 to $625,500.  In preparation for this some lenders, like Bank of America, have already stopped accepting applications for loans over the new limit. Those seeking higher loan amounts through Fannie, Freddie or the FHA will need to apply for non-conforming loans, which have higher interest rates. Many politicians, organizations and other industry-related entities have been hard at work to prevent these changes, which they believe (and I agree) will be bad news for the already-injured housing market, pushing a recovery further into the future. Let’s hope these changes are prevented.

San Diego County Property Assessment Values Rise. For the first time since 2008 county property values have risen, and albeit a small amount (0.51%), it is still positive news for San Diego’s housing market. The only cities that did not see assessed value increases were Carlsbad, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach. The average a homeowner will have to pay due to the increase is about $260.

Bill Calls for Merger of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The struggle to do away with Fannie and Freddie continues, and the latest news comes from a California Republican, who wants to merge the two into a government-held corporation. Freddie, Fannie (who own or guarantee 56% of all home loans in the U.S.) and their cousin Ginnie Mae back the majority of mortgage loans on the market – if they were not around there would likely not be any mortgages available now. Debaters have been arguing on whether to keep them under government control or sell them and get the government completely out of the mortgage market. This new option throws another log in the fire. I am sure the debate about what to do with Fannie and Freddie will continue.

Government Still Toying with Idea of Mortgage Servicer Oversight. Again, the government is announcing that it plans to start regulating mortgage servicers. Citing the risk of consumer harm with the current system (you think?), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to put the choke collar on these firms. The power to impose these restrictions on non-bank servicers, who are not subject to federal banking regulations, was provided by last year’s Dodd-Frank Act. Details are still in the works so it will be interesting to see what transpires. If you are a buyer and are planning on applying for a loan, I highly suggest you speak with your mortgage professional right away.

Big Banks Modifying More Loans (but not in the way we hope). Big banks have been modifying, or attempting to modify, more loans. But the interesting part is that they have been doing so of their own volition – contacting those borrowers who are not yet late with payments, but who pose a risk of future default. While this seems like a great idea in theory, many borrowers who have tried to get modifications complain that it doesn’t help those who reach out to the lender for help – modifications that should be granted are not, while those that shouldn’t (not yet in default or borrower hasn’t contacted lender yet) are granted. It’s frustrating for people who are honestly trying to work out a plan to stay in their homes. I think the lenders need to address those who have stepped up and asked for help before contacting those who have not…a “deal with what is in front of you NOW, and worry about the future in the future” concept. What do you think?

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