Freddie Mac: 30-year mortgage rates fall to 4.5%; Fed helping

The Federal Reserve’s decision to continue a stimulus program unabated should put more downward pressure on mortgage rates, which had fallen sharply this week even before the central bank announced its decision.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell from 4.57% last week to 4.5% this week, according to Freddie Mac’s survey of lenders, which was conducted Monday through early Wednesday. The 15-year fixed home loan declined from 3.59% to 3.54%.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke stunned Wall Street by saying the economy is still too sluggish for him to start tapering off on the stimulus, as many economists had expected he would do.

That means that for now, the central bank will continue buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, pumping money into the economy and pushing down interest rates.

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Fed’s stimulus program?

The terms that lenders were offering on 30-year loans immediately eased Wednesday afternoon following Bernanke’s announcement, said Jeff Lazerson, who heads the Mortgage Grader loan brokerage in Laguna Niguel.

The rate for a 30-year loan with no discount points dropped from 4.5% to 4.375%, Lazerson said. To obtain a 30-year fixed mortgage at 4.125%, borrowers were paying one point, down from two points Wednesday morning.

Retail sales and industrial production are growing more slowly than economists had expected, and consumer sentiment fell for the second straight month in September to the lowest level since April, noted Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft.
This, in part, was why the Fed chose to keep up its massive bond-buying program, Nothaft said.

“It also cited the tightening of financial conditions observed in recent months,” he added, “which in the case of the housing market means the rise in mortgage rates since May.”

Several economists said the longer-term trend is for 30-year home loans, which in May dropped as low as 3.35% on average, to rise back toward more normal levels, meaning mortgages starting with a “5.”

In an email to The Times, Nothaft said Freddie Mac projects that the rate will average around 4.5% or less for the rest of this year, “and stimulate further improvement in home sales and home-price appreciation.”

“However,” he said, “we are still projecting the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to be at or above 5% by the end of 2014.”

Freddie Mac’s survey asks mortgage bankers what terms they are offering to borrowers with good credit and down payments of 20% who pay less than 1% of the mortgage amount in upfront fees and discount points to the lender.

Source: LATIMES.COM/business

Housing Recovery Takes Off in Q2

After a somewhat slow first quarter, the national housing recovery took the pace up a few notches in Q2, Zillow reported.

According to the company’s second-quarter Real Estate Market Reports, the U.S. Zillow Home Value Index (HVI) rose to $161,100 as of the end of June—up 2.4 percent quarter-over-quarter and 5.8 percent year-over-year.

The second quarter’s increase was the largest annual gain since August 2006 and the largest quarterly gain since the fourth quarter of 2005—as well as the second-largest quarterly gain since 2004. National home values rose only 0.25 percent during the first quarter.

While home value appreciation accelerated in Q2, it also spread to more areas across the country, reaching markets in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southwest that had previously had trouble keeping pace.

All of the top 30 largest metros covered by Zillow saw annual appreciation as of the end of the second quarter, and Zillow believes all are coming back from their respective troughs.

Metros with the largest annual gains in Q2 included Sacramento (29.5 percent), Las Vegas (29.4 percent), and San Francisco (25.5 percent).

While some areas—particularly those where annual appreciation is approaching 30 percent—may seem like they’re experiencing a bubble, Zillow senior economist Svenja Gudell explained that kind of market behavior won’t last.

“Investors are starting to pull out of some markets and regular buyers are coming back, and more inventory is slowly but surely coming on line, both of which will contribute to slowdowns in appreciation,” Gudell explained. “Additionally, in some overheated markets, rapid home value increases coupled with rising mortgage rates will lead to housing prices and financing costs outpacing local income growth, which will also contribute to a moderation of the market.”

Over the next 12 months, Zillow expects home values to rise another 5 percent. Of the 30 largest markets, 29 are expected to see appreciation, with New York being the only exception.

In the rental market, national rents fell quarter-over-quarter by 0.5 percent to $1,282—the first quarterly decline after nine consecutive quarters of rents either increasing or remaining flat. Year-over-year, national rents were up 1.6 percent as of the end of the second quarter.

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Source: DS News

Fed attempts to free higher-priced loans from appraisal binds

A proposed rule was issued by six federal financial regulatory agencies that would create exemptions from specific appraisal requirements for a subset of higher-priced mortgages.

The proposed exemptions would save borrowers both time and money as well as promote the safety and soundness of creditors.

The Dodd-Frank Act imposed appraisal requirements for high-priced mortgages. Under the act, loans are deemed “higher-priced” if they are secured by a consumer’s home and have interest rates above a certain threshold.

The rule proposed would allow the following three types of higher-priced mortgage loans to be exempt from the Dodd-Frank Act appraisal requirements: loans of $25,000 or less, certain streamlined refinancing and certain loans secured by manufactured housing.

In January, the Federal Reserve Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a final rule implementing the new Dodd-Frank Act appraisal requirements.

As of January 18, 2014, compliance with the final rule will become mandatory. The agencies listed above are jointly issuing the proposed rule on additional exemptions in response to public comments received previously.

Public comments are encouraged by the agencies on all aspects of the proposal. The public will have until September 9, 2013, to review and comment on most of the proposal. However, comments linked to the proposed Paperwork Reduction Act analysis will be due 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.


Fannie Mae: Economy Will ‘Reaccelerate’ in 2nd Half of 2013

Fiscal drags such as the sequester may have weakened economic momentum, but the economy should “reaccelerate” in the second half of this year as financial and housing conditions improve, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group.

In its most recent economic outlook, the group revealed expectations for the economy to continue the modest recovery and grow 2.2 percent this year, up from 1.7 percent in 2012 and 2 percent in 2011.

“Employment numbers are getting better, albeit it at a relatively slow pace, and the April employment picture should help boost consumer sentiment toward the economy overall. Spending grew in the first quarter at a surprisingly strong pace, and although this rate is unlikely to hold up, consumers continue to show signs of resilience in the face of fiscal concerns,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae.

Duncan though warned of “potential” headwinds, such as the “long-term effects of sequestration, spending constraints, the sovereign debt crisis, and the impending debt ceiling.”

Amid the expected improvements, the group anticipates the housing market’s recovery will go on as well, reinforced by current levels of home affordability.

According to the GSE’s analysis, housing affordability should steadily decline from its 2012 peak, but will still hover above normal levels through 2017. By that time, the group expects the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to average 5 percent.

While affordability provides support to the housing market’s recovery, it’s not the main driver of homebuying activity, according to the GSE.

“Going forward, the trends in lending standards, regulations regarding lending and securitization of mortgages, and housing finance reform will be key to a transition to normal for the housing market,” the group stated.

Home prices should also continue their upward trajectory, aided by limited inventory, a smaller share of distressed sales, and increased efforts to prevent foreclosures.

Looking ahead, the group forecasts single-family starts will increase 24 percent this year, while multifamily starts will rise by about 35 percent during the same time period.

Total home sales—new and existing—are expected to increase by nearly 8 percent in 2013, while home prices should average a 3.9 percent gain.
The 30-year fixed rate mortgage is projected to average 4 percent in 2014.

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Source: DSNEWS

Year-over year US home prices up sharply in November

U.S.  home prices in November extended their steady recovery from the housing bust,  rising 7.4 percent compared with a year ago. It was the biggest year-over-year  increase in 6½ years.

CoreLogic,  a private data provider, said Tuesday that prices also rose 0.3 percent in  November from October. The month-to-month figures are not seasonally adjusted.  CoreLogic compiles its indexes by tracking sales of the same homes over time,  using data on sales in all 50 states.

The  gains in home prices have been widespread across most of the country. And  CoreLogic forecasts that prices will increase 6 percent this year.

Prices  in November were higher than in November 2011 in all but six states. And only 13  of 100 large cities that CoreLogic studies reported year-over-year price  declines. That was down from 20 cities in October.

The  sharpest increases were in Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. North Dakota and  California rounded out the top five.

Steady  price increases are helping fuel the housing recovery. They’re encouraging some  people to sell homes and enticing would-be buyers to purchase homes before they  get more expensive. Rising prices also reduce the number of homeowners who owe  more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

“All  signals currently point to a progressive stabilization of the housing market and  the positive trend in home price appreciation to continue into 2013,” said Anand  Nallathambi, CEO of CoreLogic.

Despite  the gains, home prices nationwide are still nearly 27 percent lower than in  April 2006, when prices peaked during the housing bubble.

Some  of the biggest gains have been in states that were hurt the worst. Prices in one  of them, Arizona, have jumped nearly 21 percent in the past year, the most of  any state. But prices in that state are still nearly 40 percent below  their peak.

And  prices in Nevada have risen 14.2 percent in the past year but remain 53 percent  below peak levels.

The  states where prices continue to fall include Delaware, where they are 4.9  percent below a year ago, and Illinois, down 2.2 percent. Connecticut, New  Jersey, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are also reporting declines.

Prices  rose 24 percent in Phoenix in the past 12 months, the most of any large metro  area. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. was next with a 9.7 percent rise. It was  followed by Los Angeles, where prices rose 8.4 percent.


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Shadow Inventory: It’s Not as Scary as It Looks

The housing market is improving because there are more buyers chasing fewer homes. Skeptics of a housing bottom, however, often point to a scary set of numbers: the “shadow inventory” of potential foreclosures—the millions of mortgages that are either in foreclosure or in seriously default.

It’s true that home prices are unlikely to see brisk gains once they do hit bottom because it will take years to absorb this glut. But will this phantom inventory derail the incipient housing bottom?  Maybe not, say a number of housing analysts.

There are several reasons why the shadow inventory isn’t as scary as it sounds: It’s concentrated in a handful of markets—it isn’t inherently a national phenomenon. It is being offset by improved demand, particularly from investors. And the housing vacancy rate is low, a product of very little new home construction over the past few years that could counterbalance continued high inventories of foreclosed homes.

We’ll address each of those in subsequent posts. But first, let’s examine the actual size of the shadow inventory. While the shadow is very large, one often-overlooked fact is that the shadow isn’t nearly as large as it was two years ago.

There are a wide range of estimates of shadow inventory. A common measure are loans that are either in the foreclosure process or that are three months or more delinquent. These are mortgages that are among the most likely to ultimately become bank-owned properties.

Barclays Capital estimates that at the end of May there were around 1.8 million mortgages in the foreclosure process and another 1.45 million where borrowers have missed at least three payments. That puts the total number of properties that could be repossessed and resold by banks at around 3.25 million mortgages.

‘The concept of a huge shadow inventory is preposterous,’ says one economist.

If those homes hit the market all at once, housing would be in deep trouble. Last year, for example, there were 4.4 million sales of previously owned homes. The figure is still higher than any time before June 2009.

But it is down from a peak of 4.25 million in February 2010. And unless mortgage delinquencies begin to accelerate sharply, the shadow inventory won’t be growing. Barclays estimates that at the current rate, this figure could fall to around 2.4 million loans.

“The concept of a huge shadow inventory is preposterous,” says Christopher Thornberg, a housing economist with Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. “The number of mortgages in distress is way down from one year ago. It’s clear there are fewer distressed properties out there.”

Housing analyst Ivy Zelman has a slightly larger estimate of shadow inventory—around 6.3 million homes at the end of last year—that includes more newly delinquent mortgages and potential re-defaults. She says that in a normal market, there’s a comparable shadow inventory of 2.9 million homes. So the key figure—the excess level above the historical trend—is around 3.4 million homes.

Ms. Zelman published an in-depth research note earlier with the title: “Shining a bright light on the shadow: Why what’s lurking doesn’t concern us.” In it, she explains how it’s more important to focus on the pace at which foreclosures are being liquidated, and not the absolute number.

“Just like the Wizard of Oz, shadow inventory is not very intimidating once you pull back the curtain,” the report said. That isn’t to dismiss the magnitude of the problem and headwind it will continue to pose for any housing recovery, she wrote. “The bathtub is almost full, but the water has stopped rising, and we are most concerned with how fast it drains.”

Certainly, there are many other  risks to housing. There are at least 11 million homeowners that are underwater, owing more than their homes are worth. There are even more than that who don’t have enough equity to make a 10% down payment on their next home, plus pay a real-estate broker’s sales commission, in order to trade up to a bigger home or downsize to a smaller one.  And it’s still very difficult to get a mortgage.

But the shadow inventory is often the big trump card used to quiet any housing-happy talk. Tomorrow, we’ll offer a deeper look at how demand factors into this equation, and how the shadow is being disposed.

Source: LA TIMES