Friday, March 9, 2012

FHA Drops Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium To 0.01% For Qualified Borrowers

FHA MIP scheduleThe FHA is making more changes to its flagship FHA Streamline Refinance program.

Beginning mid-June 2012, certain current, FHA-backed homeowners will be able to refinance their existing FHA mortgage into a new one, without having to pay the government-backed group's new, costly mortgage insurance premium schedule.

Earlier this week, the FHA rolled out its new MIP schedule.

Beginning April 9, 2012, new FHA mortgages are subject to a 1.75% upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) and an annual mortgage insurance premium of up to 1.25% for loan sizes up to, and including, $625,500; or 1.60% for loan sizes exceeding $625,500.

Upfront MIP is typically added to the loan size as a lump sum. Annual MIP is paid via 12 monthly installments. Both add to the long-term costs of homeownership.

However, the FHA's new MIP schedules will not apply to all FHA-backed homeowners equally. Homeowners whose FHA mortgages were endorsed prior to June 1, 2009 will benefit from a different, less costly MIP schedule.

For these homeowners in search of a streamline, the MIP schedule is as follows :

  • Upfront MIP : 0.01% of the loan size
  • Annual MIP : 0.55% of the loan size, with no adjuster for loan sizes over $625,500

The new schedule is detailed in FHA Mortgagee Letter 12-04 and it lowers the cost of FHA Streamline Refinancing for long-time, FHA-backed households in California and nationwide to almost nothing.

As a real-life example, an FHA-backed homeowner whose $100,000 mortgage dates to 2008 could refinance via the FHA Streamline Refinance program and pay just $10 in upfront MIP, with a corresponding annual MIP payment of just $550, or $45.83 monthly. 

By comparison, every other FHA-backed homeowner with a $100,000 mortgage pays $1,750 in UFMIP and as much as $1,600 in annual MIP.

The new streamline refinance MIP schedule is in effect for FHA mortgage applications with case numbers assigned on, or after, June 11, 2012. It is not available for loan applications made prior to that date.

There are lots of dates and deadlines in the FHA's new streamline program. If you're too early -- or too late --  you could miss your optimal refinance window. Talk with your loan officer, therefore, and put a plan in place. You'll be glad to be prepared.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mortgage Rates Expected To Rise On A Strong Job Report

Net New Jobs Feb 2010-Feb 2012With home affordability at an all-time high, buoyed by the lowest mortgage rates ever, it's been a terrific time to buy or refinance a home using a mortgage.

The good times may not last, though, so today marks an ideal time to lock a mortgage rate. Friday brings risk. Here's why.

Since 2010, weak economic conditions have been a primary catalyst for low mortgage rates in California. Over the last 12 months, though, manufacturing output has been rising, consumer spending has been climbing, and business investment has increasing.

In other words, the economy is improving. However, it's the jobs market that's believed to be the economic recovery keystone. When jobs come back, analysts say, so does the economy.

Assuming that's true, a recovery may already be well underway.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. jobs market has grown for 16 straight months now, adding 2.5 million net new jobs along the way. It's one reason why the February jobs report matters so much to housing. 

Rate shoppers would do well to pay attention.

Friday, at 8:30 AM ET, the government will release its Non-Farm Payrolls report for February. Wall Street expects the report to show 210,000 new jobs were created in February, a figure slightly higher than the rolling, 6-month average for job growth. This would be a positive economic indicator.

If the analysts are correct, mortgage rates are likely to rise on the news, harming home affordability.

Furthermore, affordability could be harmed by a lot if the number of net new jobs created exceeds the 210,000 tally expected. It's not a far-fetched scenario. Wall Street's "whispers" put the actual jobs figure somewhere between 250,000-300,000. A reading lije this would cause mortgage rates to spike and would add money to a prospective monthly mortgage payment.

If the idea of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, consider taking your nerves out of the equation. Call your loan officer today. Lock your rate ahead of Friday's Non-Farm Payrolls release.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are You Wasting $471 Per Month On Your Mortgage?

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, for 13 straight weeks, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage has held below 4.000% for mortgage applicants willing to pay up to 0.8 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

These are the lowest mortgage rates in history and now -- with a bevy of loan programs for the nation's 11 million "underwater homeowners" including HARP, the FHA Streamline Refinance, and the VA IRRRL -- millions of U.S. homeowners can exploit the current mortgage rate environment.

In this 4-minute clip from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn about today's mortgage market and your refinancing opportunities in California.

The video begins by telling us that 14 million credit-worthy Americans have yet to refinance their respective mortgages, and are leaving an average of $471 in "wasted savings" on the table each month which adds up to more than $5,600 annually.

That's a big number.

Some of the video's other key points include :

  • Refinancing is "worth the hassle" when mortgage rates are as low as they are today
  • The best rates are reserved for homeowners with the highest credit scores
  • Comparison shop -- your current mortgage lender may not offer you the best rates

Furthermore, the video reveals the characteristics of the homeowner type most likely to benefit from a refinance. These traits include having with 20% equity in the home; have plans to live in the home for at least the next 36 months; carrying a current mortgage rate of 5 percent or higher.

It should also be added that, with a zero-closing-cost or low-closing-cost mortgage, even a small reduction in your mortgage rate can make a refinance worthwhile.

Mortgage rates are low but can't stay low forever. If you haven't participated in the Refi Boom, talk with a loan officer and review your mortgage options. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per month with just modest closing costs. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home Affordability Reaches An All-Time High

Home Opportunity Index (2005-2012)Home affordability moved higher last quarter, boosted by the lowest mortgage rates in history, a rise in median income, and slow-to-recover home prices throughout California and the country.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the quarterly Home Opportunity Index read 75.9 in 2011's fourth quarter. More than 3 in 4 homes sold between October-December 2011, in other words, were affordable to households earning the national median income of $64,200.

Never in recorded history have U.S. homes been as affordable on a national level. Even on a regional and local level, affordability soared.

Affordability was highest in the Midwest; 7 of the 10 most affordable markets nationwide were in the nation's heartland. 

The Top 5 most affordable U.S. cities in Q4 2011 were:

  1. Kokomo, IN (99.2% home affordability)
  2. Fairbanks, AK (97.5% home affordability)
  3. Cumberland, WV (96.9% home affordability)
  4. Lima, OH (96.0% home affordability)
  5. Rockford, IL (95.5% home affordability)

These are each considered "small markets". The most affordable "major market" was the Youngstown, Ohio area, where 95.1% of homes sold were affordable to households earning the area's local median income.

Not surprisingly, America's "least affordable cities" were regionally-concentrated, too, with 7 of the 10 least affordable markets located in either California or Texas.

San Francisco (#3), Santa Ana (#4), and Los Angeles (#5) led for the Golden State but, for the 15th consecutive quarter, the New York metropolitan area took "Least Affordable Market" honors.

Just 29 percent of homes in and around New York City were affordable to households earning the area's median income last quarter. It's a large jump from the quarter prior during which 23 percent of homes were affordable.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available for download on the NAHB website.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How To Keep A Stainless Steel Product Shining

Shine Stainless Steel

With their sleek, modern look, over the past 10 years, stainless steel appliances have move from "hot trend" to commonplace.

However, as any homeowner with stainless steel appliances will tell you, to keep a stainless steel surface free from marks, drips and fingerprints can be a futile exercise. Streaks and smudges will happen -- they can't be avoiding.

There are tricks, however, for keeping your stainless "shining". You'll need a microfiber cloth and a small bowl, plus some dish detergent, and some WD-40 or furniture polish. 

First, start with a single teaspoon of dish detergent in a quart of hot tap water. Using the microfiber cloth to avoid scratching the appliance's surface, rub the mixture firmly in the direction of the steel's grain.

Rinse the surface with clean, hot water and dry it immediately.

If the smudge remains, as a second attempt, spray a little WD-40 or furniture polish on the surface of the stainless steel appliance and buff the mark away using the microfiber cloth.

Then, if the smudge still remains, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the appliance surface and -- again with the microfiber cloth -- rub in the direction of the grain. This will remove the mark, but it will also dull the stainless steel's shine.

Therefore, to restore the appliance's luster, use a small amount of WD-40 or furniture polish, or buff the appliance with a drop of mineral oil. 

You may also use a commercial stainless steel cleaner to clean your home's appliance and these products work well. However, they're often thick with chemicals and can be more expensive than one of the do-it-yourself solutions presented above.

Sometimes, though, it takes a specialty product to get the job done.

Friday, March 2, 2012

FHA To Raise Mortgage Insurance Premiums April 1, 2012

FHA MIP Changes April 1 2012Beginning April 1, 2012, the FHA is once again raising mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) on its newly-insured borrowers throughout and the country.

It's the FHA's fourth such increase in the last two years.

Beginning April 1, 2012, upfront mortgage insurance premiums will be higher by 75 basis points, or 0.75%; and annual mortgage insurance premiums will be higher by 10 basis points per year, or 0.10%.

For borrowers with a loan size of $200,000, the new MIP will add $1,500 in one-time loan costs, plus an on-going, annual $200 increase in total mortgage insurance premiums paid.

All new FHA loans are subject to the increase -- purchases and refinances.

The FHA is increasing its mortgage insurance premiums because, as an entity, the FHA is insuring a much larger percentage of the U.S. mortgage market than ever before. 

In 2006, the FHA insured 2 percent of all purchase-money mortgages. In 2011, that figure jumped to 18 percent. Unfortunately, as the FHA has insured more loans, it's number of loans in default have climbed, too, forcing the FHA to boost its reserves.

Beginning April 1, 2012, the new FHA annual mortgage insurance premium schedule is as follows :

  • 15-year loan term, loan-to-value > 90% : 0.60% MIP per year
  • 15-year loan term, loan-to-value <= 90% : 0.35% MIP per year
  • 30-year loan term, loan-to-value > 95% : 1.25% MIP per year
  • 30-year loan term, loan-to-value <= 95% : 1.20% MIP per year

In order to calculate what your FHA annual mortgage insurance premium would be on a monthly basis, multiply your beginning loan size by your insurance premium in the chart above, then divide by 12.

In addition, for loans over $625,500, beginning June 1, 2012, there is an additional 25 basis point increase to annual MIP.

To avoid paying the new FHA mortgage insurance premiums, start your FHA mortgage application today. Existing FHA-insured homeowners will not be affected by the change.

Mortgage insurance premiums will not rise for loans already made.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Case-Shiller Index Shows Home Values Rising In Detroit

Case-Shiller Index December 2011

Standard & Poors released its December 2011 Case-Shiller Index this week. The report is the most widely-cited, private-sector metric for the housing market. The index aims to measures change in home prices from month-to-month, and from year-to-year, in select U.S. cities and nationwide.

According to the report, between November and December 2011, home values fell within 18 of the Case-Shiller Index's 20 tracked markets; and through the 12 months leading up to December 2011, 19 of 20 tracked markets fell.

Only Detroit posted year-over-year gains, adding 0.50% since December 2010

Now, these statistics may look dire for the housing market, but it's important to remember that the Case-Shiller Index -- though widely-cited -- remains a flawed statistic for everyday buyers and sellers. Rather, the monthly Case-Shiller Index is more appropriately applied by policy-makers and economists to macro-economic issues than by you and me for buy-or-sell decisions..

There are three ways in which Case-Shiller is flawed -- each tied to the way by which Case-Shiller Index is calculated.

The first reason why the Case-Shiller Index is flawed is that, although it's purported to be a "national" housing index, the index tracks just 20 cities nationwide. The United States, by comparison, houses more than 3,100 municipalities. The Case-Shiller Index is not a representative sample of the U.S. housing market.

And then, even within its tracked markets, Case-Shiller fails provide sufficient details to be useful.

Within each Case-Shiller Index city, there are innumerable "local markets", each with its own local economy. When home values are shown to be falling in Phoenix, for example, that doesn't mean that values are falling everywhere in Phoenix -- only in the aggregate. There are multiple neighborhoods in Phoenix in which home values improved in December.

The Case-Shiller Index doesn't capture that. 

As another reason to ignore the Case-Shiller Index, note that the Case-Shiller Index only includes home sale data for single-family, detached homes -- sales of condominiums and of multi-unit homes are specifically excluded. In some markets -- Chicago and New York, for example -- sales of these types can represent a large percentage of overall monthly sales.

Lastly, as a third reason to reduce the Case-Shiller Index's significance -- it's "old".

The Case-Shiller Index is published on a 60-day delay and includes sales contracts from even 60 days prior to that. In other words, the data used in this week's Case-Shiller Index dates back to October 2011.

Data from 5 months ago is of little relevance to buyers in California today. Up-to-date and current information is what matters.

For actionable, real-time housing market data, therefore, look past the Case-Shiller Index. Look to your local real estate agent instead.