Affordable housing: Americans want help getting in

WASHINGTON – June 22, 2017 – Most Americans and Canadians say their nations aren’t doing enough to address and solve affordable housing needs, according to Habitat for Humanity’s Affordable Housing Survey. Escalating costs remain a top barrier preventing families from accessing decent homes with affordable mortgages, the survey says.

“In many ways, housing is an invisible crisis,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “There are still too many families without access to safe, secure and affordable housing. This survey highlights the value all of us place on a decent place to call home and underscores the critical need to increase access to affordable housing.”

Owning a home is a key rung on the ladder of economic advancement. What happens if that rung remains elusive for many?

According to the survey, nine out of 10 Americans say owning a home is one of their greatest achievements in life. Also, 68 percent of U.S. renters say owning a home is one of their chief goals, according to the survey. PSB, on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada to gauge their perceptions of, and challenges to, affordable housing.

Ninety-one percent of American homeowners credited owning a home with making them more responsible, and 44 percent said it helped them build a nest egg. Forty-one percent say homeownership has given them stability.

But homeownership remains out of reach for many. Nine out of 10 Americans and Canadians say it’s important to find solutions to the lack of affordable housing. At 59 percent, concerns regarding U.S. affordability in particular easily topped other housing issues like safety (16%) and quality (11%).

One major barrier to homeownership cited among survey respondents: the high cost of rent. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents said the high cost of rent was preventing them from buying, followed by 75 percent who said obtaining a mortgage was proving to be a big barrier.

Many of the survey respondents said they’ve struggled to pay housing costs at some point in their life. Among U.S. respondents, 27 percent of respondents said they struggled to pay housing costs in their 20s; 22 percent in their 30s; 11 percent in their 40s; and 9 percent in their 50s.

Source: “Nine Out of 10 Americans and Canadians Call for Affordable Housing Solutions,” Habitat for Humanity (June 20, 2017)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

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

1 in 5 mortgage borrowers regret their decision

COSTA MESA, Calif. – Nov. 10, 2016 – Overall satisfaction scores have increased year over year, but a high percentage of homebuyers still have regrets about their mortgage lender, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study.
The study found that 1 in 4 (21 percent) customers purchasing a home express have regrets about their lender, a claim voiced even more by first-time buyers (27 percent).
Among customers who regret their decision, there are two distinct situations:
Customers who have a poor experience. This group cites an above-average incidence of problems, lack of communication and unmet promises. While this group’s responses aren’t unexpected, they are often vocal about their displeasure, making an average of 9.0 negative comments compared with the study average of 0.7.

Satisfied customers who feel they made a decision too quickly. The second situation is more unexpected, according to survey authors. This group tends to be very price-focused and frequently obtains multiple quotes. However, on some level they feel the process itself was too complex, even though they were happy with the lender they finally chose.

Among customers who regret their lender selection, 72 percent say they were pressured to choose a particular mortgage product. Their final lender choice is often linked to financial reasons, such as getting a lower rate because they have a relationship with the firm (e.g., checking account with direct deposit).
“This ‘happy buyer’s remorse’ is in part due to customers feeling that circumstances out of their control drove them to a particular choice and that options weren’t totally clear,” says Craig Martin, director of the mortgage practice at J.D. Power. “Like a lot of consumers, they are happy with a good deal, but they can feel that they have to jump through hoops to get the deal. In the end, they may not fully understand exactly what they got, and the longer-term risk for lenders is that customers’ perceptions of the deal may change in the future.”
One potential contributing factor to this condition could be TRID (TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosure). Over the past two years, much of lenders’ attention has been focused on complying with and minimizing the negative effects of these new requirements, which became effective in October 2015. Lenders feared that the new requirements would extend an already lengthy process and negatively affect satisfaction.
While various sources have reported increases in the total number of days for the lending process, findings of the 2016 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study show little change in the perceived speed of the process. Improved communication and setting expectations appropriately helped prevent negative perceptions.
“Whether it is a new regulation, shifting rates or new technology, lenders will continue to face challenges that require them to change,” Martin says.
Key findings
A higher percentage of customers this year said their loan representative always called back when promised, compared with last year (85% vs. 81%, respectively), and their loan closed on the desired date (81% vs. 79%)

Satisfaction is significantly higher among customers buying a home (840) than among those refinancing (821). In the 2014 and 2015 studies, the levels of satisfaction in these groups were nearly identical

Technology is becoming increasingly important, with 28% of customers saying they completed their detailed application online, up from 22% in 2015 and 18% in 2014

Top lenders by satisfaction
Quicken Loans ranks highest in primary mortgage origination satisfaction for a seventh consecutive year, with a score of 869. Quicken Loans performs particularly well in the application/approval process, interaction, loan closing, loan offerings and onboarding factors.

CitiMortgage moves up three positions from fifth in 2015 to second this year, with a score of 851. Ditech Financial, new to the study in 2016, ranks third with a score of 849.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (+52 points) and Nationstar Mortgage (+50 points) post the most significant year-over-year improvements in overall satisfaction.

Consumer advice
Plan ahead when researching mortgages. Satisfaction among customers who waited until they found a home to look for a mortgage is 92 points lower than among those who started before they began a home search.

Get more than one quote. Among the 32% of customers who received just one quote, overall satisfaction is 19 points lower than those who get multiple quotes. Satisfaction is 38 points lower among first-time buyers only getting one quote vs. those who get multiple quotes.

Choose a lender based on merits, not just price or affiliation. Customers who say they chose their lender primarily because of price/rate or based on a recommendation are significantly less satisfied than those whose choice is based on other reasons.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Average 30-year mortgage rate rises to 3.57%

WASHINGTON (AP) – Nov. 10, 2016 – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for a second straight week.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.57 percent from 3.54 percent last week. Rates remain near historically low levels, however. The benchmark 30-year rate is down from 3.98 percent a year ago. Its all-time low was 3.31 percent in November 2012.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, rose to 2.88 percent from 2.84 percent.

The rates reflect the mortgage market in the week prior to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s election as president. On Wednesday, the day the result became known, bond prices fell sharply. That sent yields higher.

Long-term mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which jumped to 2.06 percent from 1.80 percent a week earlier – exceeding 2 percent for the first time since January. Traders have been selling bonds more aggressively to hedge against the possibility that interest rates, which have been extremely low for years, could rise steadily under a Trump administration.

The sell-off in bonds continued Thursday morning, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 2.12 percent.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee for a 15-year loan also held steady at 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year mortgages averaged 2.88 percent, up from 2.87 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.4 point.

AP Logo Copyright © 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

HUD charges Fla. landlord with discrimination

HUD charges Fla. landlord with discrimination
 

WASHINGTON – Nov. 10, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charging landlords in South Florida with discrimination against tenants with disabilities. Rather than a tenant-based allegation, the charge reflects concerns about a visitor who travels with an emotional support animal.

HUD charged three entities in the Florida case: the owner of Hillcrest East Building No. 22, a multifamily development in Hollywood, Florida; the property’s management company, Rhodes Management; and a previous president of the homeowners’ association. The housing discrimination allegation claims they failed to make reasonable accommodations, published discriminatory notices and statements, and attempted to intimidate and retaliate against two family members who filed a housing discrimination complaint.

One individual lives at the subject property, and the other person, who has a disability, was allegedly prevented from visiting her cousin at the property because she requires the use of an emotional support animal.

HUD’s charge also alleges that the owners and managers discriminated against persons with disabilities by requiring personal and unnecessary medical information in order to grant reasonable accommodations, and by prohibiting emotional support animals and their owners from having access to the development.

The complete HUD charge is posted online.

The charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge. If the administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainants to compensate them for the discrimination and may assess a civil penalty

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate based on disability in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, including refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services. In addition, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance

“Discrimination against people with disabilities continues to be the most common type of housing discrimination complaint we receive each year,” says Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “It’s unacceptable and the cases we’re announcing today reflect HUD’s commitment to making sure housing opportunities are available to every American, including those with disabilities.”
© 2016 Florida Realtors®
 

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

Gated community homes sell for more

 BOCA RATON, Fla. – July 1, 2016 – Homes in gated communities command significantly higher prices – almost $30,000 on average – compared to similar homes in communities without a gate. However, gated neighborhoods’ additional amenities can also reduce sale prices because they bring maintenance costs that outweigh the benefits of the amenities, according to recent research published by the American Real Estate Society (ARES).

“This study provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” says ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson, Ph.D., a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) College of Business and co-developer of the Beracha, Hardin and Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index.

The study examined 11 gated communities and a sample of matched non-gated properties, using a data set of housing sales in Shelby County, Tennessee. The researchers found that residential properties in gated communities command a noticeable price premium of approximately $30,000, most likely resulting from actual or perceived benefits associated with additional privacy, homeowner associations’ tighter controls on maintenance, home design and the added assurances against crime and other undesirable activities.

“Additional maintenance costs associated with these amenities often outweigh their benefits, and it appears that while a gate has value, additional neighborhood amenities do not always provide additional value,” says Mark A. Sunderman, Ph.D., University of Memphis.

So, what does all this mean to buyers and sellers?

“The long-held belief that gates add value is supported by the data, as long as the impact of the amenities is properly factored in,” Johnson says. “This should set buyers’ minds to rest as to whether or not they are actually receiving a boost in value when they purchase inside a gated community.”

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

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