FHA loans easier to get – but more in default

WASHINGTON – March 13, 2017 – Riskier borrowers are making up a growing share of new mortgages, pushing up delinquencies modestly and raising concerns about an eventual spike in defaults that could slow or derail the housing recovery.

The trend is centered around home loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that typically require downpayments of just 3 percent to 5 percent and are often snapped up by first-time buyers. The FHA-backed loans are increasingly being offered by non-bank lenders with more lenient credit standards than banks.

The landscape is nothing like it was in the mid-2000s when subprime mortgages were approved without verifying buyers’ income or assets, sparking a housing bubble and then a crash. Still, for some analysts, the latest development is at least faintly reminiscent of the run-up to that crisis.

“We have a situation where home prices are high relative to average hourly earnings and we’re pushing 5 percent-down mortgages, and that’s a bad idea,” says Hans Nordby, chief economist of real estate research firm CoStar.

The share of FHA mortgage payments that were 30 to 59 days past due averaged 2.19 percent in the fourth quarter, up from about 2.07 percent the previous quarter and 2.13 percent a year earlier, according to research firm CoreLogic and FHA. That’s still down from 3.77 percent in early 2009, but it represents a noticeable uptick.

While that could simply represent monthly volatility, “the risk is that the performance will continue to deteriorate, and then you get foreclosures that put downward pressure on home prices,” says Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s deputy chief economist. Such a scenario likely would take a few years to play out.

The early signs of some minor turbulence in the mortgage market add to concerns generated by recent increases in delinquent subprime auto loans, personal loans and credit card debt as lenders target lower-income borrowers to grow revenue in the latter stages of the recovery.

FHA mortgages generally are granted to low- and moderate-income households who can’t afford a typical downpayment of about 20 percent. In exchange for shelling out as little as 3 percent, FHA buyers pay an upfront insurance premium equal to 1.75 percent of the loan and 0.85 percent annually.

FHA loans made up 22 percent of all mortgages for single-family home purchases in fiscal 2016, up from 17.8 percent in fiscal 2014 but below the 34.5 percent peak in 2010, FHA figures show. The share has climbed largely because of a reduction in the insurance premium and home price appreciation that has made larger downpayments less feasible for some, says Matthew Mish, executive director of global credit strategy for UBS. House prices have been increasing about 5 percent a year since 2014.

At the same time, the nation’s biggest banks, burned by the housing crisis and resulting regulatory scrutiny, largely have pulled out of the FHA market as the costs and risks to serve it grew. Non-bank lenders, which face less regulation from government agencies such as the FDIC, have filled the void.

Non-banks, including Quicken Loans and Freedom Mortgage, comprised 93 percent of FHA loan volume last year, up from 40 percent in 2009, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. Meanwhile, the average credit score of an FHA borrower has fallen modestly since 2013. Mish says non-banks generally have looser credit requirements, and lenders have further eased standards – such as the size of a monthly mortgage payment relative to income – as median U.S. wages stagnated even as home values marched higher.

Here’s the worry: If home prices peak and then dip, homeowners who put down just 5 percent and are less creditworthy than their predecessors and will owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. That would increase their incentive to default, especially if they have to move for a job or face an extraordinary expense, Khater says. Foreclosures would trigger price declines that ignite more defaults in a downward spiral.

In turn, funding for the non-bank lenders from banks and hedge funds likely would dry up, and FHA loans would be harder to get, dampening housing.

Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, says such fears are unfounded, citing some complaints that FHA mortgage standards are too rigorous.

“The non-banks (bring) a welcome change,” he says. They must meet FHA standards, he says, and are overseen by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Bill Emerson, vice chairman of Quicken Loans, the top non-bank lender, says the credit standards of his firm and his peers are stringent by historical standards and seem looser only because banks tightened requirements after the housing crash.

“I don’t have any concerns about” a potential rise in bad loans, Emerson said.

Copyright 2017, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Paul Davidson

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Wage growth now matches rental rate growth

WASHINGTON – July 22, 2016 – U.S. renters are seeing their housing costs rise at a much more manageable pace, as new construction has tempered years of runaway increases in rent.
Real estate data firm Zillow says that median rent rose a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent in June from a year ago, matching the gains in average hourly wages. Rental costs have decelerated after consistently exceeding earnings growth in previous years, a sign that additional building is giving more options.
The median monthly rent nationwide was $1,409. Annual increases in rent surpassed 9 percent in both the Seattle and Portland, Oregon areas, although it has moderated in markets such as San Francisco, where yearly price growth went from double-digit gains to 7.4 percent.
Prices are rising above the national average in New York City and Los Angeles. But they’ve settled at less than 2 percent in Cincinnati and Cleveland, host of the Republican National Convention this week. Still, rental costs are much cheaper in both Ohio metro areas than the national average.
In Philadelphia, where the Democrats will hold their convention, median rent is more expensive and has been rising at a 2.5 percent to $1,582 a month.
Not all indicators show rent as moderating. The government’s consumer price index found that rents had jumped 3.8 per cent from a year ago. Shelter accounts for a third of all consumer expenses, according to the index.
Builders have been adding to the national supply of apartments. They completed 310,300 multi-family buildings last year, a 21.4 percent jump from 2014, according to the Commerce Department. Apartment construction through the first half of this year is running another 5.6 per cent ahead of the 2015 pace.
Copyright © 2016 The Canadian Press, Josh Boak. All rights reserved.

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Things first-time home buyers need to know

 

WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – July 22, 2016 – The economy is improving, interest rates are low and many consumers now find themselves in a great position financially to become a first-time homeowner. There’s a small problem though for some locations around the country – the booming real estate market is resulting in rising home prices and increased competition for the most desirable properties.
The S&P/Case-Shiller national home-price index recently estimated that 2016 prices are within four percent of the peak in 2006. In some areas, low inventories around the country are making the situation even more challenging.
These conditions are introducing first-time buyers to common challenges and frustrations while searching for their dream home. “Don’t get discouraged,” says Travis Peace, executive director of mortgage at USAA Bank. “Buying a home requires some fortitude and the process intimidates many – not just those doing it for the first time.”
As a result, Peace says it’s easy to concentrate too much on home buying “can’ts” rather than “can-dos,” and he offers this advice on how to overcome some common barriers.
“I Can’t” No. 1: I can’t figure out the home-buying process.
Peace notes that it’s essential to do research and to be equipped with basic information, but also be willing to ask for help when needed. For example, an experienced real estate agent can keep a buyer apprised of everything from area sales trends to the latest changes in state and federal laws that could impact a mortgage application.
“This is where experienced, licensed professionals can help,” Peace says. “Real estate agents can be an advocate for the buyer throughout the entire process.”
In addition, free tools like USAA’s Real Estate Rewards Network can connect buyers with an agent and even provide rewards based on the sale price of the home.
“I Can’t” No. 2: I can’t find the perfect home for my family.
Finding the perfect home may not be realistic, but shoppers can find the right home. Personal situations will dictate buyers’ ability to wait for a home in a particular neighborhood or design style to come on the market, but not everything has to be left to chance.
Peace says the key is to set realistic expectations and not fixate on negatives that can be changed. “Whether it’s the number of bedrooms or distance to work or school, it’s alright to have some non-negotiables. However, buyers should be willing to be flexible on things that can be relatively easy to change, like paint colors or landscaping.”
“I Can’t” No. 3: I can’t afford a 20 percent downpayment.
Putting 20 percent down on a home has become more of a guideline than a rule. Today, not being able to put 20 percent down does not mean buying a home is out of reach. Peace notes that depending on a buyer’s financial situation, there may be a responsible way to get into your new home without putting 20 percent down.
Government-sponsored loan programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide loan options that require downpayments as low as three percent. Veterans Affairs (VA) loans don’t require any downpayment. While those programs are often great options for consumers who qualify, Peace notes that buyers should keep an eye on their potential total monthly payment.
“Some of these loans include fees and private mortgage insurance (PMI) that could significantly impact your overall cost,” Peace says.
Even private lenders are offering more competitive loan options. For example, USAA Bank’s Conventional 97 loan allows borrowers to acquire a mortgage with only three percent down and the bank pays the PMI costs.
Scott McEniry, a USAA member, recently moved into his new home with the help of the Conventional 97 loan. “It felt like a lifeline had been thrown to me as suddenly a house purchase was within reach again,” McEniry says.
Whether a house-hunting novice or seasoned expert, Peace underscores that being informed, getting the right help and having a healthy dose of determination are the best ways to turn a dream home into a reality.
Copyright © 2016 Argus, North Jersey Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved

Fla. metros added to federal homebuyer program

WASHINGTON – Nov. 11, 2015 – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced an expansion of the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative (NSI) to 18 additional metropolitan areas around the country, including four in Florida: South Florida, the Orlando area, the Tampa area and Jacksonville.
Effective Dec. 1, local community organizations in the metro areas will be able to buy foreclosed properties owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before the general public has a chance.
FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac jointly developed NSI through a partnership with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST). The pilot program launched initially in Detroit and was later extended to the Chicago metro area.
“The number of REO properties that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold continues to decline nationwide, but there are still some communities in which the number of REO properties remains elevated,” says FHFA Director Melvin L. Watt. “Our goal is to take what we learned in Detroit and Chicago and apply it to these additional communities as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Watt says “giving local community buyers an exclusive opportunity to purchase these properties at a discount, taking into account expenses saved through a quicker sale, is an effective way to give control back to local communities and residents who have a vested interest in stabilizing their neighborhoods.”
The 18 metropolitan areas designated for NSI expansion include:
Akron, Ohio

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Illinois

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan

Jacksonville, Florida

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida

New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York-Pennsylvania-New Jersey

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

St. Louis, Missouri

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida

Toledo, Ohio

Community organizations in South Florida estimate that about 2,000 foreclosed homes could eventually end up in the program, which focuses on homes valued at $175,000 or less.
“It’s very difficult to compete with investors who get distressed properties,” Terri Murray with the nonprofit Neighborhood Renaissance told the Miami Herald. “The investors are profit-driven while we are mission driven. This program evens the playing field for us.”
© 2015 Florida Realtors®  

Too many potential buyers think they won’t qualify 

WASHINGTON – Nov. 4, 2015 – Most people don’t know that they can buy a home with only 3 percent down, Freddie Mac says. To boost homeownership, Freddie is partnering with faith-based organizations as a way to attract more potential borrowers to its 3 percent downpayment mortgage product.
In recent years, many faith-based groups switched their attention from homebuyer outreach programs to foreclosure prevention because the financial crisis took a toll on many existing homeowners. Freddie hopes that some of these groups will again start to focus their efforts on homeownership.
The initiative includes financial education seminars and counseling sessions hosted by faith-based bodies that will use materials provided by Freddie Mac.
The mortgage finance giant has also partnered with Quicken Loans, other lenders and non-profits to promote its 3 percent downpayment program.
Many consumers are qualified to own a home but may not realize that, says Chris Boyle, a senior vice president at Freddie Mac. “We do think there’s a market out there that is not coming to the fore, and millennials is one group,” according to Boyle.
Source: American Banker (11/03/15) Berry, Kate
© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Changes coming to Fannie’s credit history analysis

WASHINGTON – Oct. 22, 2015 – Fannie Mae is enhancing its automated underwriting system to improve the analysis of credit histories and the use of nontraditional credit.
Loans underwritten on Desktop Underwriter (DU) will require the utilization of trended credit data provided by Equifax and TransUnion.
According to the secondary lender, by using trended data, a more intelligent and thorough analysis of the borrower’s credit history will be enabled.
Fannie announced the planned update on Monday.
The Washington-based company explained that credit reports currently used in mortgage lending only indicate the outstanding balance and whether a borrower has been on time or delinquent in paying existing accounts like credit cards, mortgages or student loans.
But trended data will indicate monthly payments made over time – enabling lenders to determine if revolving credit lines are paid off each month or if a balance is carried from month-to-month while making minimum or other payments.

Trended data requirements will be implemented around the middle of next year, while more details will be provided in the coming months.

DU is also being enhanced to more efficiently address borrowers without a traditional credit history. More information will be available in the coming months, and the functionality is expected to go live sometime next year.

One other change outlined in the announcement is the integration of The Work Number from Equifax into DU. As a result of the enhancement, which will also happen sometime next year, lenders won’t have to provide copies of pay stubs or other documents to verify income.

“In addition to efficiency for borrowers and lenders, this could reduce the frequency of mortgage fraud,” the notice said. “Going forward, Fannie Mae will determine if validation services can be offered for additional borrower data, such as bank statements, and additional income documents, such as tax returns.”

Copyright © 2015 Mortgage Daily. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.  

Apartments drive home construction gains in Sept.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Oct. 20, 2015 – Construction companies built more apartment complexes in September, sparking a temporary rise in housing starts for a real estate market that otherwise appears to have crested during the summer.
Housing starts last month rose 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.21 million homes, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. But a 17 percent surge in multi-family housing – which includes apartments – accounts for almost all of that increase.
New construction and sales of existing homes surged in the first half of the year as more Americans found work and the unemployment rate dipped to a solid 5.1 percent. But tight inventories, rising prices and the absence of meaningful wage growth have capped growth as affordability has become an issue – a problem that new construction can help resolve.
“Builders are stepping up to meet that demand but doing so cautiously,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities. “So, for beleaguered buyers who can’t find what they are looking for because of a dearth of listings, there is a bit of help on the way.”
Construction rose last month in the Northeast, South and West, while falling in the Midwest.
Housing starts have soared 12 percent in the first nine months of 2015. But the pace of building retreated from its June apex, in part due to the expiration of tax incentives for developers in New York.
Approved permits fell 5 percent in September to an annual rate of 1.1 million, a sign that construction will likely slow in the coming months.
Sales of existing homes similarly accelerated through the start of the summer, only to decline in August. The tight inventories – just 5.2 months’ supply of homes were listed for sale – have propped up prices, as the median cost to buy a home increased 4.7 percent over the year to $228,700, according to the National Association of Realtors.
A greater share of the country is also choosing to rent. The percentage of Americans owning homes has dipped to 63.4 percent, the lowest level in 48 years. The influx of millennials and downsizing baby boomers into the rental market has caused monthly leases to jump 3.8 percent over the past year, according to the real estate firm Zillow.
But price appreciation has also slowed as many Americans lack the income to spend more on housing. Average hourly earnings have increased just 2.2 percent to $25.09, meaning that home values and rental costs are rising at roughly double the rate of incomes.

There are signs that more Americans are renovating their homes instead of buying new properties. A new index compiled by BuildZoom – which identifies contractors for projects – found that renovations are running 2.8 percent above their 2005 level. Meanwhile, despite the gains of the past year, new home construction remains 57 percent below its 2005 level during the housing bubble.

Still, remodeling activity has been flat during the past year as new home construction has advanced. The gains have left construction firms more optimistic.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose this month to 64. The last time the reading was higher was October 2005 at 68.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has been consistently above 50 since July last year.

What do today’s buyers want in a home?

NEW YORK – Aug. 5, 2015 – What building materials are trending in new-home construction? The latest Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation, reveals what buyers can expect to see in the new-home market.

1. Garages: The garage door is getting more enhancements, including windows, insulated doors, and doors made of composite or plastic materials. In 2014, 32 percent of all new single-family homes had bays for three or more cars – the most ever recorded in this study’s history.

2. Flooring: Carpeting continues to be the most popular flooring option for new construction, included in about 83 percent of all new-home bedroom installations. However, only about 40 percent of living rooms now have carpet. Hardwood flooring – both solid and engineered– is the second most popular type of flooring included in 27 percent of all new-home installations. Ceramic tile (which appears in 72 percent of all bathroom floor installation) follows in third place, making up 20 percent of all new-home floor installations.

3. Countertops: For kitchen countertops, granite continues to reign in two out of three homes (64 percent of new-home installations). Quartz/engineered stone is gaining popularity while laminate, solid surfacing and ceramic tile are losing appeal.

4. Appliances: Cooktops and wall oven combinations are gaining in popularity and make up about 24 percent of the market, compared to freestanding ovens (45 percent). Freezer-on-bottom refrigerators are gaining in popularity at 19 percent, while side-by-side has fallen to 28 percent of the share.

5. Kitchen sinks: More buyers are paying attention to their kitchen sink, with the single basin kitchen sink making a comeback, growing from 5 percent to 20 percent of all new single-family homes in the past decade. Also growing in popularity are granite/stone kitchen sinks (at 8 percent). One-piece cultured marble lavatories are continuing to decline in demand.

Source: “Material World: The Hottest Trends From the 2015 Builder Practices Survey,” BUILDER Online (July 29, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Homeownership rate drops but probably hit bottom

 WASHINGTON – Aug. 3, 2015 – The U.S. homeownership rate continued to fall in the second quarter, reaching a 35-year low, according to a new Commerce Department report.
The seasonally adjusted homeownership rate dropped to 63.5 percent, falling from its 2004 peak at 69.4 percent.
However, economists are upbeat that change is on the horizon.
“The trend (of fewer and fewer homeowners) is not going to continue,” says Andres Carbacho-Burgos, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We think that the homeownership rate is close to bottoming out, but we don’t expect it to start rising substantially before 2017.”
Carbacho-Burgos credits a tightened labor market as one major reason for optimism, with the unemployment rate at a seven-year low of 5.3 percent and nearing the 5 percent range that most economists consider full employment.
The improvement in the job market will help boost wages, which will then have the trickle effect of bringing more first-time buyers into the housing market.
The job market has already helped to lift household formation, but most of that has been centered in the rental market. The residential rental vacancy rate dropped to 6.8 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since 1985.
The homeownership rate in the second quarter rose among Americans aged 35 years and younger. However, the rate fell for every other age group.
“As the millennials age, it’s expected they will start buying more homes and hopefully this is a sign that this trend is beginning,” says Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa.
Source: “U.S. Home Ownership Hits 35-Year Low, Renting in Vogue,” Reuters (July 28, 2015)
© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

4 Florida cities tops for seriously underwater homes

IRVINE, Calif. — July 30, 2015 — RealtyTrac released its second quarter (Q2) 2015 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which listed four Florida cities at the top of the list for homes seriously underwater – properties where the homeowners owe at least 25 percent more than the home’s current market worth.

Areas (population greater than 500,000) with the highest percentage of seriously underwater properties included Florida markets such as Lakeland (28.5 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (28.2 percent), Las Vegas (27.9 percent), Akron, Ohio (27.3 percent), Orlando (26.1 percent), Tampa (24.8 percent), Chicago (24.8 percent), Palm Bay(24.4 percent) and Toledo, Ohio (24.3 percent).

In addition, RealtyTrac looked at underwater homes that are also in the foreclosure process.

In the same Florida cities, over half of the homeowners going through foreclosure were seriously underwater:Lakeland (54.8 percent of foreclosures seriously underwater), Tampa (51.7 percent), Palm Bay (51.5 percent) and Orlando (51.2 percent).

Statewide, 23.6 percent Florida of homeowners with a mortgage were seriously underwater in the Q2 2015 – a drop from 23.8 percent in the first quarter and 30.3 percent year-to-year.

On the flipside, RealtyTrac found that 17.6 percent of Florida owners with a mortgage were “equity rich” with at least 50 percent equity. That’s a slight drop for the first quarter’s 17.8 percent but an increase from 15.9 percent year-to-year.

Looking only at homes in foreclosure, 62.8 percent in Florida were seriously underwater, while 18.6 percent, even though going through foreclosure, were equity rich.

“Strong South Florida price increases over the past few years have moved many homeowners from negative to positive equity. We would encourage the remaining distressed homeowners to ask for a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) regarding the value of their property – many may be surprised at their improving value,” says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company in South Florida.

National numbers

Nationwide, 13.3 percent of all properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater in Q2, an increase from 13.2 percent of all homes in the first quarter. However, they dropped from 17.2 percent year-to-year. At the peak of the foreclosure crisis in 2012, the percentage was 28.6 percent.

“Slowing home price appreciation in 2015 has resulted in the share of seriously underwater properties plateauing at about 13 percent of all properties with a mortgage,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“However, the share of homeowners with the double-whammy of seriously underwater properties also in foreclosure is continuing to decrease and is now at the lowest level we’ve seen since we began tracking that metric in the first quarter of 2012,” he adds.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®