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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

boomerrang homebuyer

Mortgage Rates and The Fed

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.

Ensure A Smooth Mortgage Application Process

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.


Most Often Asked Homebuyer Questions – Answered!  

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.



Feds Lift Key Interest Rate


The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates after seven years of record lows. But it’s signaling that further rate hikes will likely be made slowly as the economy strengthens further and muted inflation rises.

The Fed’s move to lift its key rate by a quarter-point to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent ends an extraordinary seven-year period of near-zero rates that began at the depths of the 2008 financial crisis. Consumers and businesses could now face modestly higher rates on some loans.

The Fed’s action reflects its belief that the economy has finally regained enough strength 6½ years after the Great Recession ended to withstand higher borrowing rates. But the statement announcing the rate hike said the committee expects “only gradual increases” in rates going forward.

Rates on mortgages are not expected to rise much soon. The Fed’s benchmark rate doesn’t directly affect them. Long-term mortgages, for example, tend to track 10-year U.S. Treasury yields, which will likely stay low as long as inflation does and investors keep buying Treasurys.

But rates on some other loans, like credit cards and home equity credit lines, will likely rise, though probably only slightly as long as the Fed’s rate hikes remain modest.

For months, Chair Janet Yellen and other Fed officials have said they expected any rate hikes to be small and gradual. But nervous investors have been looking for further assurances.

The central bank’s target for the federal funds rate – the interest that banks charge each other – has been at a record low between zero and 0.25 percent since December 2008. At the time, Fed officials led by Ben Bernanke were struggling to contain a devastating financial crisis that triggered the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The recession officially ended in June 2009. But unemployment kept rising, peaking at 10 percent before starting to fall. The jobless rate is now at a seven-year low of 5 percent, close to the Fed’s target for full employment.

Some analysts expect the Fed to raise rates at every other meeting in 2016, for a total of four quarter-point moves. Others think that after Wednesday’s hike, the Fed could wait until June before raising rates again.

While Fed officials want to move slowly, an acceleration in inflation could force them to raise rates more quickly.


TRID: What it means for you as a Homebuyer

On November 13, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a rule regarding changes to current early disclosure and closing documentation used on mortgage loan transactions. Anyone in the real estate or mortgage industry should understand that new regulations called TRID (TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosures) and how they will have an impact on the timing and notifications required throughout the closing process.

But what does TRID mean for you as a homebuyer? If you have previously bought or sold a home, you’ll see two main changes: forms and closing deadlines.

Forms. The Truth-in-Lending Statement and Good Faith Estimate will be replaced by a new Loan Estimate. The Final Truth-in-Lending Statement and HUD-1 documents will be replaced by the Closing Disclosure.

These forms have been changed to provide the buyer with a clearer picture of the costs involved with mortgage financing, and to give the buyer more time to review and accept these terms. These changes originate from the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. The standard real estate contacts are changing as well to reflect the dates and timing of obtaining a loan.

What is most important is the impact on the time it may take to schedule a closing under these new rules. Buyers must receive and acknowledge their Closing Disclosure at least 3 business days prior to the closing. This will require more coordination and communication between agents, closing attorneys and lenders to ensure this takes place. It is very important to make sure you are working with an informed team of agents, closing attorneys and lenders in order for the process to go as smoothly as possible.

Keep these three primary areas in mind while preparing yourself for the home buying process if you are planning on getting a mortgage:

  1. The old forms are out.


The homebuyer will be receiving new disclosure forms from lenders explaining the loan estimate and loan closing. The Loan Estimate form combines the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and the Truth in Lending Disclosure into a shorter form that should be easier to understand and explains the mortgage loan’s key features, costs and risks at the beginning of the mortgage process.

Under TRID, a lender cannot impose any fee, except a reasonable fee for obtaining a consumer’s credit report, on a consumer until the consumer has received the loan estimate and has indicated intent to proceed. This should make it easier for a consumer to shop for and understand interest rates, but it might take lenders longer to preapprove someone because they are going to be extra careful when collecting and reviewing borrower information.

The Closing Disclosure form combines the final Truth-In-Lending statement and the HUD-1 settlement statement into a shorter form that should be easier for the consumer to understand and provides a detailed account of the entire real estate transaction, including terms of the loan, fees and closing costs.

This disclosure might transform the closing table from a nightmare experience with piles of documents to review for the first time into a more manageable, slightly bad dream of reviewing the information ahead of time.

With more information provided by the lender before the closing date, the various roles held by the lender and title company at the closing table might change. Stay tuned.

2. The disclosures must be provided within a specific time frame — or else.

 Lenders must provide the Loan Estimate form to consumers within three business days of applying for a loan – which means three business days after the consumer provided the lender with their name, income, Social Security number, property address, property value estimate and mortgage loan amount sought.

The Closing Disclosure form must be provided at least three business days before loan consummation (the time the consumer becomes contractually obligated to the mortgage, which is usually at closing).

Any significant changes to the loan terms (the annual percentage rate (APR) becomes inaccurate, the loan product changes or a prepayment penalty is added) will restart a new three-business-day waiting period. Both the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms can be delivered in person, by mail or electronic delivery.

3. The closing process will be impacted this in the months to come.

 The TRID rules apply only to loan applications received after Oct. 3. Lenders will be extra careful and hesitant after this date, while providing mortgages so as not to be out of compliance with the new rules. This will most likely translate to longer timelines to get a mortgage and will delay closing dates.

This, in turn, will impact the tight timelines around moving into a home while consumers are also coordinating assets, move-in dates, time off of work and so on.

Plan for extra time to close while everyone tests out the new system and becomes familiar with new regulations and how to work together and train staff. If you are a Buyer, look for agents, attorneys and lenders that are using electronic disclosures and e-signatures. This will dramatically shorten the loan process by almost two weeks as compared with those that are relying on the US Mail.

Many common real estate practices that you have experienced in the past will be more difficult or even impossible after October 3. Critical issues like dates per the sale agreement and how changes to the deal will impact timing may cause delays because of the three-day rule and the requirement that lenders now prepare the CD. The need for Title companies and real estate agents to submit information much earlier in the process will definitely add more hurdles to jump over to close a transaction.

In my opinion, CASH transactions, will carry a much higher level of negotiation leverage for the next several months until this process becomes the norm.


2015 – The Year of the Boomerang Buyer

This year is already shaping up to be the year of the boomerang buyer, or the repeat homebuyer.  As it is now seven years since the housing crash, there are many buyers who experienced a financial hardship in the recent past who are getting back into the market to purchase a home again in 2015.

There were several changes recently to the waiting periods when a buyer or homeowner can obtain a new mortgage and repurchase a home again after a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy.  Borrowers today essentially have three options when it comes to obtaining financing to purchase a home. In fact, more than 9 out of 10 mortgages are either funded by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, the FHA or VA. So, if you are looking to purchase and need financing, it is more than likely you will be using one of these three financing options and it is important to know the current waiting periods when you can repurchase after a hardship.

After Foreclosure:

  • Conventional: Seven years. If you included the foreclosure in a bankruptcy, you can qualify after four years instead of seven years.
  • FHA: Three years. FHA buyers can qualify again after just one year if they experienced an economic event.
  • VA: Two years.

After Short Sale:

  • Conventional: Four years.
  • FHA: Three years. If the FHA buyer did not have any late payments before their short sale, they are allowed to automatically qualify again for FHA financing. There’s also a fantastic FHA program called the FHA Back to Work Program. If a buyer experienced an “economic event” whereby their household income fell by 20 percent or more for a period of at least six to 12 months, the agency has now reduced the waiting period to only one year.
  • VA: Two years.

After Bankruptcy:

  • Conventional: Chapter 7, four years; Chapter 13, two years.
  • FHA: Chapter 7, one year; Chapter 13, one year.
  • VA: Chapter 7, two years; Chapter 13, one year.

What if you don’t fit into these rules?

There are new mortgage options available for borrowers who do not fit these more traditional mortgage options above. Portfolio lenders are stepping in to provide mortgage options for buyers who cannot qualify for conventional, FHA and VA financing, and with terms much better than private financing.

There are lenders who will provide financing for buyers less than six months out of a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy. Of course, this does not come without a price. You need a larger down payment and rates will be higher than traditional loans.

Another part of the puzzle to helping you get in a position to repurchase again is ensuring you have also started to re-establish your credit since the financial hardship.

For example, even though the required timeline of say two or three years may have passed so you can qualify for conventional or FHA financing again, it is important you have also started to rebuild your credit and have the required credit scores to qualify again for financing. The FHA and VA only require a 580 credit score to repurchase again.

The first step is to get a copy of your credit report to verify if the financial hardship or discharge is reporting correctly and to also see what your scores are.

You can go to to get a free copy of your credit report (consumers are allowed one free credit report per year).

Then the next step is to start rebuilding your credit scores.