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Rob Chrisman's Corner: FHA Borrowers Get Good News

Any borrower who will be obtaining FHA financing for their home were happy to learn that they will soon receive a break on their monthly mortgage payments. The Federal Housing Administration, the government insurer of low down-payment home loans, is reducing the annual mortgage insurance premium by 25 basis points, which it says will save FHA borrowers an average $500 this year – many of whom use JMAC’s brokers for home loans.

Money is money, and $500 certainly will help the average FHA borrower. HUD, who oversees the FHA, and the FHA pointed out that the reduction in insurance premium was due to the improved financial condition of the FHA’s insurance fund. The FHA's insurance fund was a major player in the housing bailout, offering borrowers the only low down-payment option available. JMAC’s broker’s borrowers can put as little as 3.5 percent down on a home with a mortgage backed by the FHA. HUD officials said the reduction is likely to lower the cost of housing for approximately 1 million households who are expected to purchase a home or refinance their mortgages using FHA-insured financing in the coming year.

Our brokers also know that in the last year the FHA has seen competition from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which rolled out low down payment programs. Although their volumes have not been high, the programs still represent an alternative – also, at this point, financed by taxpayers. In 2008, at the height of the crisis, nearly one-quarter of new loans were backed by the FHA. That is now down to about 1 in 6. The housing bailout, however, put the FHA in the red for several years, but strict underwriting and numerous premium hikes totaling 150 basis points, pulled it out.

The FHA spread the word that its insurance fund has gained $44 billion in value since 2012, and its capital ratio has been above the required 2 percent level for two years. The “why” may be lost on the clients of JMAC’s brokers, overshadowed by the “how much will it help me?” discussion. Which is fine, especially when it helps our broker’s borrowers financing a new home.

Rob Chrisman's Corner: Rates have gone up. Now what?

JMAC’s experienced brokers know that rates have gone up because the U.S. economy is doing well. And while few welcome higher interest rates, they should not be a considerable deterrent to someone who really wants to buy a home.

Rates under 5% have been the norm for a decade, and have a way to go for rates to be even close to the historical average. Rising home prices, fueled by strong demand and tight inventory, have pinched buyers in recent years. Lower interest rates helped temper that rise, but as they move higher, borrowing becomes costlier and can reduce a buyer's budget.

Many expect home prices to continue to rise in 2017, but at a slower pace – which could very well let income increases catch up somewhat. In many areas, the supply is still low compared to demand and that will keep pressure on prices and rents. The rate increases could be felt more by house hunters in the country's more expensive markets.

Our brokers also know that rates are expected to continue to gradually increase throughout 2017 – at least short-term rates. A higher Federal Funds rate makes it more expensive for banks to borrow money, which can lead to higher rates on credit cards and home loans. But despite potentially higher Fed Fund rates in 2017, mortgage rates may not rise alarmingly.

As rates move higher, we could see the return of more home loan products, such as adjustable rate mortgages. JMAC has a solid inventory of flexible, non-agency jumbo products, for example. Non-traditional mortgage products could start to creep back into the market as consumers search for more affordable options.

Rob Chrisman's Corner: What is a Mortgage Commitment?

The election is over, we’re heading toward year end, so we figured it was time for a primer about home loans. What would you say is the most important commitment in life? Some of JMAC’s brokers would say their Sunday tee time. But brokers will tell their borrowers there is another commitment that is also important: a mortgage commitment.

A mortgage commitment is that coveted document that says the client’s mortgage financing hopes have been paper chased, verified, appraised, double checked, underwritten, updated, and formally offered up as ready to go by your mortgage lender. It’s basically a formal evidence piece of paper that says you’ve done everything correctly in terms of mortgage financing.

Essentially every mortgage loan commitment has two parts to evaluate: the collateral and the credit package. The collateral is the house a client is buying or refinancing. And JMAC’s experienced brokers tell their clients that the credit package is basically the DNA of their mortgage commitment journey. Everything and anything that has to do with your mortgage borrowing is in the credit package. Borrower circumstances vary like DNA profiles and satisfying Qualified Mortgage (QM) and Ability-To-Repay (ATR) guidelines is often a rigorous adventure.

Approving the credit package includes gathering every shred of the client’s credit, income and asset life and then securing corroborative proof that what they say is what is. Credit scores can determine what kind of mortgage financing package a client is eligible for and what kind of interest rate they can expect to pay. Knowing and showing where the client works, what they do for a living, how much money they make, how they get paid and how they present their income on tax returns is also a critical element of the credit package. And of course, how much cash a client has ready for a down payment and all of those closing costs need to be determined.

Essentially, a broker will tell a client that a mortgage loan commitment is a written blessing that their house is worth what they are paying for it, and that the client is willing and able to pay back all the money borrowed to buy it. So much more important than a tee time.

Rob Chrisman's Corner: Rates - A Topic for Discussion

JMAC’s brokers have seen the election shake up financial markets. While stocks have rallied our brokers know that 2016’s wonderful rate environment has vanished. Clearly, the election was a catalyst, but why, exactly, are rates responding like this and what are the chances they can come back? Bond markets (which dictate rates) are worried about the uncertainty that has been created.

The Trump victory has left investors guessing what his actual policy path might look like and what the effects would be on the financial markets. Certainly, a Fed rate hike has become a 100% certainty at its meeting next week. This has pushed mortgage rates higher.

But there are other reasons for rates to move higher. Together with a unified GOP congress, Trump is expected to create inflation through increased infrastructure spending, protectionist trade policies, and lower taxes. (Lower taxes + higher spending = the need to print more Treasury debt, or plain old growth. Both would push rates higher. Protectionist policies could raise the cost of imports, which could add to inflation).

The infrastructure spending possibilities and potential tax cuts have boosted equities markets. Some investors think this is an opportunity to shift some funds out of bonds and into stocks. And many investors think the domestic situation makes December a perfect opportunity for Europe to announce that it will taper its asset purchases (thus decreasing overall demand in bond markets, which is bad for rates).

Trump did mention the possibility of "renegotiating" with America's creditors, which as our brokers know is never good for interest rates, and hopefully a hollow campaign promise. If Trump were to follow-through on mass-deportation goals, that could have an inflationary effect, as it implies an increase in the cost of labor.

JMAC’s brokers know that the theme of all this is more inflation, and inflation expectations have increased based on the potential changes in fiscal and monetary policy. And this rate spike is made worse by the level of uncertainty over the ultimate policy path: bond markets must account for a wider range of risks, and it's much safer for bond traders to be overly defensive of the worst-case scenarios until they can be ruled out.