World events are conspiring to make it more expensive for you to borrow money to buy a house.
Mortgage rates have increased for six consecutive weeks, according to Bankrate data, bringing interest on a 30-year fixed rate loan to 4.44 percent—the highest level in 11 months—while home prices continue to rise due to a lack of available homes.
After years of tepid economic growth, inflation and wage growth recently found a groove, while the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise short-term interest rates multiple times for a consecutive year has reduced the value of government debt.
Homebuyers Should Get off the Fence
Mortgage rates are moved by the yield on 10-year Treasuries, rather than short-term rate hikes by the Fed. That’s why mortgage rates fell throughout 2017, for instance, even as the central bank raised the federal funds rate three times. Rates remain cheap, however, compared to historical prices. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage came with an interest rate above 6 percent just before the Great Recession in 2007. Potential homeowners should get off the fence and make a bid, assuming you have an affordable home target and adequate savings, because rates are likely only heading north.
Mortgage rates are expected to climb in 2018, so it might be worth shopping for a mortgage before this long period of low rates takes a turn.
Here are several predictions from the largest housing and mortgage groups for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage:
Before you let that dream home slip away, consider these strategies to help bridge the transition:
Make an offer that’s contingent on the sale of your house:
A seller may be persuaded to accept your offer with the caveat that you’ll have to sell your house before closing on theirs. You’ll strengthen your chances of getting a seller to take a chance on you if you can show that your home is priced properly and has a solid marketing strategy. Successful contingency offers depend on good communication between the real estate agents representing both sides. It’s up to you and your agent to reassure the seller that the closing won’t be delayed. Obviously, in hotter housing markets with potentially multiple bids, it can be harder to get sellers to accept such an offer.
Offer the seller a rent-back option:
One way to buy yourself extra time to complete your sale is to offer to buy the new house, then rent it back to the seller after closing. A rent-back agreement is typically for just a month or two. But this arrangement can give sellers extra time to move – or to find a new house of their own – while putting a little money in your pocket and keeping you from having to pay two mortgages at once.
Tap the equity in your current home:
If you have a high credit score and considerable equity in your house, you could free up some of the latter with a home equity line of credit. A HELOC lets you use up to 85 percent of your home’s value, less the balance remaining on your mortgage, and is fine-tuned based on your credit profile and income. Most HELOCs have a variable interest rate, so it’s in your best interest to pay off the loan as soon as your current home sells.
This strategy may let you buy a house before you sell, but it’s not a last-minute option. A HELOC requires an appraisal, income verification and a thorough credit check, so it takes time – generally 30 days or more – to qualify, says Tim Beyers, mortgage analyst with American Financing in Aurora, Colorado. If you’re thinking of going this route, make sure you run the numbers with an expert upfront, Beyers says.
To qualify for the new loan, a lender will evaluate your current mortgage payment, plus the HELOC payment and your new monthly mortgage payment, to calculate your debt-to-income ratio for the new mortgage approval, Beyers says. If your income is high enough to have a debt-to-income ratio below 40 percent with all those payments and other monthly expenses taken into account, only then should you consider a HELOC, he adds.
“Once you start dipping into your home’s equity, that changes the equation when you apply for a new mortgage,” he explains. “Taking too much out can hurt your qualification chances on a new mortgage. Don’t make an offer, then try to scramble to do the math.”
Add a HELOC to your new mortgage:
With this strategy, you break up the financing on your new home with a first mortgage for the amount you need, plus a HELOC to make up the difference in your shortfall for a downpayment, says Elise D. Leve, senior mortgage banker at Citizens Bank in New York.
Once you sell your current home, you can pay the HELOC portion off in full and end up with the single mortgage you wanted in the first place, Leve says.
Get a Bridge Loan:
A much riskier strategy is what’s called a ‘bridge’ or ‘swing’ loan. Using your existing home as collateral, you take out a bridge loan for three months to five years to use as the down payment on your new home. Once you’ve purchased your new home, you sell the old one and pay off the mortgage and the bridge loan. Such a loan is less risky in a fast appreciating market where appreciation can cover the extra payment on the old home. Even in the best market, however, swing loans can be expensive, last-ditch propositions that are fraught with caveats. Bridge loans can cost 5 to 10 percentage points more than a typical equity loan. Your home must be lien free. Excellent credit is mandatory, as are good income-to-debt ratios. It may be a better idea to get a cash-out refinance, second mortgage or equity loan to use as a bridge loan. Traditional financing is cheaper and less risky, but that could preclude you from landing another mortgage for a new home should the lender consider you stretched too thin.
The Federal Reserve kept the benchmark rate unchanged on September 21st, in a divided vote that alludes to the possibility of a hike before the end of the year.
“The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives,” the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released in statement. “The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.”
“Our decision does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference, later adding, “We’re generally pleased with how the U.S. economy is doing.”Today’s action was largely expected by analysts as policymakers stood fast this summer, despite initially forecasting four hikes this year. The federal funds rate informs the trajectory of mortgage rates, which remain at historic lows.
Perhaps no sector has benefited more from ultra-low rates than housing, which was devastated by the real estate crash. Home sales are expected to total about 5.7 million this year, up from 5.4 million in 2014 and 4.6 million in 2011. The recovery can at least partly be traced to 30-year fixed mortgage rates that remain below 4%, down from about 6% in 2008, keeping borrowing costs low for buyers.
But today’s housing market is supported by far more than low mortgage rates — namely steady job and economic growth. What’s more, 30-year mortgages are priced off 10-year Treasury note yields, which do rise as short-term rates climb, but not as steeply.
Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored funder of mortgages, expects this week’s Fed hike of a quarter of a percentage point to have virtually no immediate impact on Treasury or mortgage rates, noting markets already have priced in the move. Assuming the Fed raises its rate by a percentage point over the next year, Duncan expects 30-year mortgage rates to drift from 3.9% to 4.1% during the period. That would boost the monthly cost of a typical $225,000 mortgage by $26 to $1,454 — not enough to deter most buyers.
Adjustable-rate mortgages, many of which are modified annually, could increase about twice as rapidly, by about a half a percentage point. Yet as long as job growth and aggregate U.S. incomes increase proportionally, Duncan expects any market impact to be modest. A far bigger restraint on home sales, he says, is a limited supply that should push up prices by nearly 5% both this year and in 2016. As a result, Duncan expects home sales to increase 4% in 2016, down from 8% this year, with higher rates holding back 1% to 2% of deals.
“As long as the rate rise is gradual, I don’t see it as a hugely important factor,” he says.
When buying a home, most people focus on how much the home costs and what interest rate they can get on the loan. While understanding the lending process is very important, the other fees that home buyers overlook when it comes to their home purchase.
There are some fees that will require up-front payment. Other fees may be rolled into the loan for your home. It’s important to understand the difference and know what you’ll be expected to pay.
Earnest Money Deposit
To prove you’re “earnest” in your purchase commitment, a buyer can expect to deposit to a trust account 1% to 2% of the total purchase price as an earnest money deposit within days of entering into a contract.This amount can change depending on market factors. If demand in your area is high, a seller could expect a larger deposit. If the market is cold, a seller could be happy with less than 1%.
Other governing factors like state limitations and rules can cap how much earnest money a seller can ask for.
An escrow account is basically a way for your mortgage company to make sure you have enough money to cover related taxes, insurance and possibly mortgage insurance. The amount you need to pay varies by location, lender, and loan type. It could cover costs for a few months to a year.
If you only provide a small down payment, you may be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance, commonly referred to as PMI, is typically provided by a private mortgage insurance company to protect lenders against loss if a borrower defaults.
Sometimes this means you are required to pay a full year’s worth at time of purchase, or it will be rolled into your monthly payment.
Escrow accounts are common for loans with less than a 20% down payment and mandatory for FHA loans, but it’s not required for VA loans.
Origination Fees & Points
The origination fee is the price you pay the loan officer or broker for completing the loan, and it includes underwriting, originating, and processing costs.
The origination fee is a small percentage of the total loan. A typical origination fee is about 1%, but it can vary. You should shop lenders for more than interest rate, but all of the fees associated with the loan.
You want to be assured your new home is structurally sound and free of defects before you complete the purchase. Those assurances come with a price.
- Home inspection: This is critical for homebuyers. A good inspector will be able to notify you of structural problems, defective applianes, leaks, and other potentially serious problems. Expect to pay $300 to $800 for a home inspection, although cost varies by location and the size of the home and how many stories it is.
- Radon inspection: An EPA-recommended step, this inspection will determine whether your prospective home has elevated levels of the cancer-causing agent radon. A professional radon inspection can cost several hundred dollars.
- Pest inspections: Roaches are one thing. Termites or wood fungus are a whole different story. Expect to pay up to $150 for a Wood Destroying Organism inspection.
Some states, such as North Carolina, require an attorney to be present at closing. In other states, such as Florida, this is optional. If you use a lawyer, expect to cover the costs, which vary by area and lawyer and what the attorney is being asked to do.
Just because you can get your credit report for free doesn’t mean your lender can (and they will actually pull all three). You have to reimburse the lender, usually around for these reports that usually run about $30.
If you live in a hazard-prone area, you might need to purchase extra insurance in addition to homeowners insurance, these can include wind and flood. Lenders will require that you purchase the required insurance to protect their investment. If you are a cash buyer, you have the option of buying insurance or self-insuring. Make sure you understand the risks.
Your lender will not approve a loan for a home without knowing what its fair market value is. They will determine this value based on an appraisal. Appraisal costs vary by market area and the size and complexity of the property. An appraisal will typically cost $250 to $1000.
Title insurance covers you in the unlikely case that the person who sold you the house didn’t actually own it or if information on the title was false. Typically this is verified before the purchase of your home, but this insurance protects the lender or the buyer against loss arising from disputes over ownership of a property.
The lender will require you to have title insurance for the value of the loan. You are also required to have title insurance on the value of the property. Whether the buyer or seller pays for this is area specific and is a protocol not a mandate and can be negotiated as a condition of the contract.
A survey is not required in all instances, but your lender may require a professional surveyor to determine exactly where your property lines are drawn. Your attorney will also review the survey to ensure that there are no encroachments. Prices vary widely, but expect to pay at least $100.
Document preparation fees:
The lender, broker, Title Company or closing attorney will usually have a fee to cover the preparation of the required documents for the loan and closing paperwork. These fees are typically rolled in closing costs for the home and may be covered by either the homebuyer or seller.
State Recording Fees:
Depending on where you live, there may be a fee required for recording and holding the information regarding the sale.
What to do before closing:
- You can still be denied for a mortgage loan, even after you’ve been pre-approved by the lender. The pre-approval is not a commitment or guarantee. You’ve been conditionally qualified for loan. But you need to stay qualified all the way up to the closing. The less your financial situation changes, the better.
- If you withdraw or transfer funds for any reason before closing, your lender will probably ask for a written explanation. They will also want to see a record of the transaction, such as your bank statements.
- Make sure you have a home owners insurance policy in place. Your lender will require this. They might even require you to pay the first year’s premium in advance, by setting up an escrow account. The lender may contact your insurance agent before closing day, to verify the policy and coverage amount.
- If you make any large deposits into your account, tell your lender about it. It will only help your cause, as far as mortgage approval goes. Provide any documents you have relating to the deposit.
What to avoid before closing day:
- Don’t spend a lot of money. Implement a self-imposed “spending freeze,” as much as possible. You obviously have to buy groceries, gas for your car, and other necessities. But don’t spend anything beyond that. Keep things as stable as possible until after you close on the home.
- It’s best to avoid any major purchases during this period. Your lender might have certain cash-reserve requirements for the loan. So a major reduction in assets could hurt your chances of getting the final approval.
- Don’t open any new credit lines, such as credit cards. The same goes for buying a car, applying for a store credit card, etc. These things will change your debt ratio, which could cause problems with your final approval. Mortgage lenders hate surprises.
- Don’t switch jobs before closing, unless it’s completely unavoidable. A new job usually brings a change in income, as well. If your income goes down, it will alter your debt-to-income ratio in a bad way. A change in employment will also require a lot of paperwork changes. Some lenders will verify your employment again, just before closing day.
Buying a home is a major lifestyle and investment decision. Homebuyers have a lot of questions throughout every step of the process and I have found that many of the questions are common to many. Here are some answers to the most common questions I get asked.
Q: What home can I afford?
That depends, of course-on your income and other financial obligations. There are many Home Affordability Calculators for a ballpark figure. A visit to the Optima Properties website will offer you many tools under the Finance Center!
Before you start to shop, make sure that you know exactly what you can afford by getting pre-qualified by your financial institution of mortgage broker.
Q: Can I buy a home and sell my current one at the same time?
Yes, you can-but it’s the real estate equivalent of walking a tightrope. This is one of the trickiest questions to answer, on the one hand, if you buy a home before you sell the one you’re in, you’re overextended financially; if you sell before you buy, you might need to rent a while before finding a new place. There are ways to do both at once, and one option is to request a “sale contingency” in your contract. This means you only agree to buy a home if you can sell the one you’re in. The only downside is if your seller doesn’t agree and will not agree to this condition….it never hurts to ask!
Q: How many homes should I see before making an offer?
As many as you need to! While home shoppers these days can look at hundreds of homes online, most need to physically visit the area and stand in the properties before they put in an offer. Keep in mind, this varies tremendously for each person. Some people find their home within hours of looking or make an offer sight unseen because they have definitively defined their criteria. For others, it takes months and sometimes over a year if they are trying to determine the area, lifestyle, and type of home that meets their requirements.
Q: What do you think the seller will accept as a fair price?
As a rule of thumb, knocking 5-10% off the list price
won’t ruffle any feathers for an initial offer. If the property has been sitting on the market for months, you can venture below that, but the bottom line is, you never know how low a seller will go, as they have different motivations for selling. Your Exclusive Buyer Agent should develop a Comprehensive Market Analysis to determine the market value of the property. This should be your guideline as to how much to offer and how high to go.
Q: How do I know if the property is a good deal?
While there’s no crystal ball on whether a certain home is a bargain and will appreciate, rest assured that with research, you can keep surprises to a minimum. The best way is to check out comps-what similar properties are selling for in the area.
Q: How quickly can I close?
If you are paying cash you can typically close in the time it takes to get the home inspected and have a lien, permit, and title search conducted. The new TRID requirements for home loans have extended the time required to get a mortgage. I advise all my buyers to not commit to a closing for less than 60 days from the effective date of the contract.
Q: Should I get a home inspection?
My only answer to this question is YES, YES, YES! A certified and licensed home inspector ( not your father in law) will look into the condition of the roof, electricity, heating and air, plumbing, among other functions and conditions of the property. Even if you are just purchasing land you should check for soil contamination, septic perkability, etc.
Q: Can I back out if I change my mind?
While buyers can always back out of a deal, doing so without good reason may forfeit their earnest money and full deposit. The form of contract you choose to use may provide you with different outs. Contingencies are great “escape clauses. For example, if you enter into an AS IS contract upon an unsatisfactory home inspection, the buyer can ask for their deposit back. Another contingency is “subject to appraisal.’” That means you can back out if the appraisal either ordered by your closing agent or your lender results in a valuation that is less than the agreed to purchase price.
Bear in mind that the more contingencies you include in your offer the less room you have to negotiate other terms and conditions of the contract with the Seller.
There is not question to small or unimportant when purchasing a home. There is a wealth of information available and your agent should assist you in getting your questions answered in a timely manner.