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Eliot Spitzer and Making Sense of the New Conforming Loan Limits

March 18th, 2008 · 5 Comments

If you’re Eliot Spitzer, probably three feelings come to mind: panic, disorientation and regret.  But if you’re a potential home buyer in the Peninsula region of California, you have good reason to feel excited, encouraged and confident!  Why?  If you read my last post last month, you know that the conforming loan limits for many California Counties are going up and that means cheaper mortgage rates on loan amounts between $417,001 and $729,750.  Now that HUD has made it official that ALL bay Area counties qualify for the revised maximum conforming loan limit, that means potentially big savings on mortgages for qualified applicants looking to purchase single-unit properties up to $810,000 with as little as 10% down!

We’ve all heard the cliche, “the devil’s in the details”, so what are the latest requirements to obtain a conforming loans between $417,001 and $729, 750?  Since I’ll provide you with a link to Fannie Mae website and announcement , I’ll provide you with some highlights that I think are most relevant and let you read further at your leisure:

1. Single-unit properties only

2. Purchase and “limited cash out” transactions only (i.e. no greater than $2,000 going into your pocket upon settlement)

3. If primary residence purchase, up to 90% loan-to-value (”LTV”) allowed if fixed-rate program is selected–700 minimum FICO(R) required; 80% LTV if an adjustable-rate loan is selected–660 minimum FICO(R) required; if refinance

4. If second home or investment property purchase, maximum 60% LTV allowed with minimum 660 FICO(R) regardless of eligible loan program selected

5. If refinance, regardless of type of eligible mortgage program, up to 75% LTV allowed, plus subordinate financing allowed in addition up to 20% LTV–660 minimum FICO(R) required

     a. SPECIAL NOTE, consolidating existing first mortgage and subordinate mortgage into one loan NOT eligible AND six  months of “seasoning” (six payments made on existing mortgage) required to refinance!

6. Loans are eligible for origination NOW 

7. Eligible programs include 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed, LIBOR-based 5/1 ARM (amortized and interest-only payments allowed for this program)– more programs may become available

8. Sufficient employment, income and assets must be verified and each file will require manual underwriting– automated underwriting engines not allowed at this time

Again, I do encourage you to read the Fannie Mae announcement from the 6th of March for all the details, but the above are the top highlights.

So what will pricing look like on these “new” conforming mortgages?  Well, pricing has just recently been released by only a few institutions, but it looks like the 30-year fixed is running at about 6.375% and the 15-year fixed is running at about 6.25%.  The 5/1 ARM pricing is expected to be released next month.  What I do think is that pricing may actually get a little better in the short term as more institutions post pricing and auctions are successful with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

What’s right for you as a would be home buyer on the Peninsula?  That depends of course on your specific situation, and I do encourage you to consult with your trusted mortgage and financial consultant before placing an offer on a home or refinancing your mortgage.  What I can say is that the majority of our clients who are buying or refinancing today are selecting a jumbo 5-year ARM in the mid-5% range due to its balance of savings, security and flexibility.

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Tags: * Type of Content · Buyer · Buyers · Consumer · Industry

How Stimulating Will Raising the Conforming Loan Limit Be?

February 21st, 2008 · 9 Comments

All hail our legislative and executive branches for passing into law the latest shot of adrenaline to our economy: the 2008 stimulus package. And it looks like a record was set with how fast the bill became law– wow, pretty impressive… Efforts like providing consumers with tax refund checks and businesses with additional write-offs should certainly inject the economy with billions of dollars, but many have asked me how raising the conforming loan limit, especially in CA, will truly stimulate the economy. Further, many of those have asked me whether it’s really the right thing to do.

Let’s start with whether it’s the right thing to do. Probably one of the better arguments against raising the conforming loan limit is the fact that doing so seems to reward those institutions and individuals that/who put us into this mess. If estimates by the National Association of Realtors is correct, 500,000 refinance transactions will be generated, 300,000 additional homes will be purchased and 210,000 foreclosures will be avoided. So if we conservatively estimate the revenue generated and the losses avoided using industry standards, the total is over 40 billion dollars! $40 billion certainly helps answer the question of how such an effort helps the economy; but again, why help those who caused billions of dollars of losses and a turned the market upside down? Shouldn’t we be punishing those bad, bad people and institutions? Well, the truth is that many of those institutions and individuals have gone away or moved on. So let’s take a moment to see what’s being created here.

Raising the conforming loan limit has the following benefits:

  1. It does in fact greatly stimulate the economy
  2. Many consumers who got in over their head will now be able to afford their mortgage
  3. Greater affordability for housing is created
  4. It will influence a portion of the jumbo market that has been lost and create some investor confidence, and finally
  5. California has been long overdue to have a raise to the conforming limit given that over 50% of the nation’s jumbo mortgages were originated in California.

Okay, let’s say that raising the conforming loan limit is good for a moment. What’s next and what are the details? There’s still some speculation, but here goes:

  1. The conforming loan amount will be determined based on 125% of the median price of a given county…
  2. This allowance will NOT go into effect for purchase or refinance transactions until July 1, 2008 (that’s the earliest date that the loan application may be signed) since the market needs from now to June 30, 2008 to liquidate current qualifying mortgages available for sale from institutions
  3. The types of programs allowed will be fixed-rate programs on a full-doc basis, which means that the hybrid, interest-only programs using “stated” income will not be allowed
  4. The property must be single-family and owner occupied, which means that 2nd homes, investment properties and multi-unit properties are ineligible
  5. Credit scores must be “reasonable” with a combined loan-to-value not to exceed 90%
  6. No cash-out, which means that a refinance may not allow the borrower to receive any greater than $2,000 at closing
  7. Loans must be funded and closed prior to December 31, 2008

The last question really has to do with what pricing of conforming loans will look like come July 1, 2008. My prediction is that, all things being equal today, that conforming loan rates will increase and that jumbo loan rates will decrease, leaving a much smaller margin between conforming and jumbo loans in the future. Since all things won’t be equal due to decreased short-term rates by the Fed and the overall stimulus package helping the economy, conforming loan rates will increase greater than jumbo loan rates will decrease. So, if you’re buying closer to the conforming level today, you’re better off getting a mortgage for the long term; if you’re at the jumbo level today, you’re likely better off going more for a short-term solution. Of course always consult closely with your mortgage, tax and legal professional for the best advice as it relates to your individual situation.

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How NOT to Let Great Rates Hold Up Your Closing

January 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

I recently read a great post from Dan Green, a mortgage planner in Ohio, titled, “While Rates Are Low, Schedule Your Purchase Closing At Least 45 Days Out “, and I wanted to remind any potential home buyers searching within or around Palo Alto, CA that local sellers are still requiring a 30-day or less close. Thanks to our main man, Dr. Boer, for bringing this blog to my attention.

Dan does have some great points about turn times deteriorating, underwriters being more cautious and resources being slimmer. All of these concerns are valid and may press the close date on any transaction. Thus, it’s important to verify with whomever you select as your lender what the timetable looks like for your situation. As a general rule, purchase transactions are given higher priority than refinance transactions.

The reality is that we have worked on two transactions already this month where the close date was ten days or less from contract ratification. In fact, one call I received yesterday asked whether a month-end close would be possible for a client looking to buy a condo in Menlo Park. Yes, a one-week close is possible.

So how can you prepare, and whom can you trust to get your transaction done right and on time? I offer the following:

1. if you have a trusted mortgage lending source, double check to determine whether the institution makes direct lending decisions (usually a direct lender or a mortgage bank)

2. if your trusted source does not make direct decisions (usually a mortgage broker), request a realistic timetable to determine whether your loan will fund in the time required by the contract

3. ask your real estate professional for a referral to a lender that she or he trusts

No doubt, this is a fantastic time to be buying a home: there a some local values out there, rates are phenomenally low (have you seen that 5-year treasury lately, wow! And what a move by the Fed to lower another .75%..!) and our local economy is doing well (check out Iverson’s latest post for more on that subject). The flip side is that the inventory of available homes has not been very encouraging (only four new ones in Palo Alto on Friday– ouch).

My position has always been that you can’t go wrong with purchasing real estate in select areas of the peninsula, provided that your holding period is five years. And if you’re someone with a reliable real estate professional, a reliable lender, reasonable qualifications and a solid plan, you will likely see a nice bump to your net worth over the next five years by making a move sooner than later.

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A Dirty Little Secret About Subprime Mortgages

January 14th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Being a mortgage banker , I’ve done my fair share of researching the impact of the current “Mortgage Meltdown”, but what I haven’t seen publicly written is one very dirty little secret about the way most subprime mortgages were structured. So I’ve come to share. Hats off to Chris Iverson of the Ventoux Real Estate Group, by the way, for doing a superb job on his Mortgage Mania series.

I will never forget the first subprime mortgage solution that I originated. It was about three years ago, the mirror was officially fogged by the client, and the terms looked something like this:

–first mortgage for $400,000 at 80% loan-to-value, 30-year period, fixed for two years at 8.00%, interest-only payments allowed, 2% discount fee, with a three-year prepayment penalty at six months interest

–second mortgage for $100,000 at 20% loan-to-value, 15-year term, fixed for 15 years at 12%, amortized payments, 1% discount fee, no prepayment penalty

What a minute, a mortgage fixed for two years, but the prepayment penalty lasts for three years? Wait another minute, don’t the payments on that first mortgage double in the third year? Yes and yes.

I wasn’t aware that the first mortgage had a prepayment penalty beyond the fixed-rate period until the final loan documents were prepared. As you may imagine, after reading the documents I made an immediate phonecall to the lender that I had brokered the deal to (oh, and yes, that company is BK) and re-negotiated the prepayment penalty to two years without any additional cost.

The truth is, as I further investigated subprime lending, I discoverd that most of those loans were structured that way, and most were not re-negotiated…

So if borrowers were essentially set up for failure, doesn’t that have a domino effect to the lender that issued the paper and the investor that bought that paper? Yes. And that’s why we’re here today. That’s also why we originated as few of these loans as practical.

The reality was that modern subprime lending (modern in that it used to be called “hard money” and the loan-to value requirements were 65%-70% of property value) actually seemed like a win:win in the beginning. Think about it for a moment. To those who were willing to buy, but had serious financial difficulties, subprime lending was a great financing vehicle to own the American Dream or maybe begin investing in real estate . To the investor, it was a low-risk, secured investment that would earn a hefty 11+% yield. Oooops, maybe it wasn’t so obvious a win:win.

We can blame whomever we wish for the current mortgage mess: the rating agencies, Wall Street, big banks, small banks, mortgage banks, mortgage brokers, real estate professionals, borrowers, etc. My feeling is that all of the above share in the blame since it allowed all parties to get greedy. And might we all agree that greed can be a very dangerous motivation?

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