Good Advice can become Bad Advice

 

Avery, our little smile factory, recently turned six months old.  It’s such a wonderful phase of baby-hood; every little detail of this world fascinates her.  She has become most curious and interested in food, as six months now marks the beginning of eating solids.  It’s amazing how fast medical advice changes, because only four years ago we were advised to begin solids with Maddison at four months.  Studies now show early introductions to food may lead to food allergies.

At first I was reluctant to buy into this allergy “theory.”  To be honest, Avery hasn’t been the best sleeper and I knew that eating solids would help her (as well as Mary & me!) sleep longer at night.  And besides, Maddison doesn’t have any food allergies despite starting solids at four months so what’s the big deal, right?  Ultimately, I decided to follow the medical advice of the professional rather than pretend I was a doctor myself.

Why am I writing about baby food (don’t worry, I’m getting to the point here)?  Because I’ve realized that doctors have the same difficult task as I do when it comes to advising clients with new information in an ever-changing world, and patients and clients alike must value the expertise their professionals possess.

Doctors say they “practice medicine” for a reason; their field is always changing.  Medical advice from years past often becomes outdated due to new research, emerging technologies, and evolving diseases.  And yet, many of us are slow to follow the new advice.  As I almost did, we dismiss the professional’s advice and assume we know better.

Similarly, the real estate market is always changing too.  Homeowners today are experiencing unprecedented dynamics when buying, selling, and financing their homes.  Unfortunately, many folks are relying on their personal experiences from years past or on antiquated advice from friends, parents and neighbors to guide their decisions in today’s tumultuous and complex marketplace.  Doing so can cost them a tremendous amount of headache, heartache, and money.

The simple truth is this: yesterday’s good advice can become today’s bad advice when you don’t keep up with the times.  Our world changes quickly, so seek professional counsel in areas outside of your comfort zone.  Like a doctor, I devote a large portion of my mortgage and real estate “practice” to staying current on the trends of the markets so I can best help you make informed decisions in a fast-paced industry.  I am committed to provide up-to-date expertise to you and to those you refer.  As always, thank you for reading.

Cheap Mortgages May Last as Investors Replace Fed

In February I posted in my 2010 Market Forecast that I thought mortgage rates would remain low this year in spite of the phase-out of the Fed’s massive involvement in the mortgage-backed-securities market.  That phase-out was completed earlier this week, and just today I read an article  that supports my theory.  Yes, the Fed is out, but private investors are back buying mortgages, and willing to do so at lower yields meaning lower interest rates for borrowers.

The article has a fair amount of financial jargon, but the crux of it is investors are back buying mortgages because of 1.) more capital due to improving financial markets; 2.) lower risk due to tighter lending requirements and stabilizing real estate markets; & 3.) continued subdued inflation.  Read the whole Bllomberg article written by  Kathleen M. Howley by clicking this link.

Matt’s 2010 Market Forecast

My annual forecast has always been the most popular post every year, so I hope you continue to find this year’s insightful and valuable.  2010 has been blazing by, and I’m just getting around to writing my annual real estate market projections and reviewing my previous year’s forecast.  I’ve been somewhat tardy in writing as I’m very busy in tending to my client’s buying, selling, and financing needs.  My full plate is one of many indicators that tell me 2010 will be an active year for the Sacramento real estate market.

With so many variables to the housing market, I focus my predictions on three broad categories: supply, demand, and interest rates.

Supply
‘09 Projection: Supply will remain low until April because many banks opted to not foreclose on properties during December and January…The number of homes for sale will roller-coaster up and down throughout the year, and end up close to it’s current level.
‘09 Result: The low supply of homes was the biggest real estate surprise in 2009.  Instead of the up and down roller-coaster trend I had predicted, the number of homes for sale continued to drop throughout the year (see graph). 

 

Currently, the Sacramento area has nearly ½ the number of homes for sale compared to a year ago.  Let me repeat…50% less homes for sale!  In my opinion, the reduced inventory of homes was the single, largest factor in stabilizing home values; more influential than tax incentives or low interest rates.  The surprising low number of homes for sale was likely due to “phantom inventory,” homes banks have foreclosed on but have not put back on the market for resale.  This decision by the banks has reduced the ratio of bank owned homes for sale on the market from 1 in 3 in December 2008 to nearly 1 in 6 currently.
’10 Projection: Inventory will be higher than 2009 levels.  Banks will begin to release more of their shadow inventory, and more short-sale listings will be successfully sold as improved processes are implemented.  Most major mortgage servicing companies are preparing to adopt streamlined, universal short-sale policies proposed by the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program.  If this program proves effective, more “upside-down” home owners will be inclined to sell and more home buyers will pursue short-sale properties. 

Demand
’09 Projection: While the global economic crisis has raised fears as to whether home prices will continue to fall, I believe low prices, low interest rates, and tax incentives will keep entry-level buyers extremely active in 2009.
‘09 Result: Gobs of 1st-timers purchased homes in 2009.  Since May of ‘09, Sacramento county homes priced under $200,000 have, on average, sold for more than asking price; a clear sign of strong buyer demand as buyers compete with each other.  For the first time in 4 years, the county’s median home price increased.


’10 Projection: Tax incentives will no longer be necessary to entice people to buy homes, and so the current tax credits will expire on April 30th, 2010 and not renews.  Sacramento saw a 4.8% INCREASE in the median home price over 2009 (see above), and this small yet steady rise will continue into 2010.  Demand will still be high in 2010 as buyers confidently (and rightfully) believe the bottom of the cycle is here.

Interest Rates
’09 Projection: With continued government intervention, mortgage rates will remain well below 6% for the year.  Lending guidelines will remain tight, but those able to qualify will have unbelievable refinance and home buying opportunities.
‘09 Result: In 2009 the Federal Reserve Bank bought 1.25 TRILLION DOLLARS in mortgage-backed-securities to keep mortgage rates low.  They did so because traditional investors refused to buy mortgages…they had lost faith in the system.  When the government swept in, interest rates immediately dropped more than a full percent, and fixed rates remained near 5% for most of 2009.
’10 Projection: Many predict mortgage rates to skyrocket above 6.0% in the coming months and stop any type of real estate market recovery.  The Fed has announced they will pull out of the mortgage-backed-securities market in March 2010.  The simple line of thinking is that rates were above 6% before the Fed got involved, so they’ll go back above 6% when they get out.  I don’t agree with this argument.  When the government intervened back in November 2008, the financial world seemed to be crumbling.  Investors were running scared from everything, including mortgages.  Fast-forward to February 2010 and things are immensely better.  They’re not great, but they are better.  Investors are now looking to buy assets again, but they want safety.  Mortgages have become a much safer investment as lending standards have tightened and home values in many areas have stopped falling.  If investors are ready again to buy mortgages (which I think they are), then that means they’ll be willing to do so at lower interest rates.  So, while I do expect mortgage rates to rise this year compared to 2009 levels, 30-yr fixed rates will stay below 6%.

Add it all up, and 2010 will be a year of recovery for Sacramento real estate.  Systemic challenges still abound, but overall this year will continue to be a wonderful time for home buyers, with now through April being the ideal time with low rates, low prices, and big tax incentives.  Tax credits to 1st-time and “move-up” buyers expire on April 30th.  If you’ve been considering buying a home for either personal or investment purposes, give me a call to discuss your options and see if you can take advantage of these ideal factors.

Thanks for reading.

Expect Mortgage Rates to Rise

If you’ve had refinancing on the brain, you may want to put that thought into action soon. The Fed recently announced the subsidies that have artificially pushed mortgage rates to record low levels through most of 2009 will end in the first quarter of 2010.   Read this article to get a summary of how and why the government has kept rates incredibly low, and why their slow pull out of the mortgage market will force rates up.  According to its author, “It is a given that once the Fed ceases its purchases (of mortgage-backed-securities), interest rates will climb significantly higher … most likely back above the 6 percent area.”

If you are an eligible homeowner who would benefit from a refinance, I encourage you to act now before rates go up.  Contact me and I’d be happy to determine what options you may have.

Mortgage Rate Rally!!!

stock-market-trading-floor1

I watched the movie Wall Street last week (1980s classic with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen), and I had to laugh at the scenes of the stock market trading floor where traders are buying and selling stocks in a frenzy during a stock market rally.  I chuckled, thinking things don’t work like that anymore with increased technology and market efficiencies in today’s stock market.  The days of frenzied brokers are a thing of the past, I thought!

Ironically, I found myself today inside the frenzied pit of a mortgage market rally as mortgage interest rates have plummeted below 5% for conforming 30 year fixed loans, below 4.5% for 15 year fixed loans, and 4.25% for 10 year fixed loans!  I’ve tried to be on the phone with as many clients as possible because, as with any market rally, you never know when it will stop and you don’t want your clients to miss the boat.  I was just like those crazed traders on the trading floor trying to get great deals for my clients before the deals are gone!

As the day winds down, rates have continued to remain incredibly low for qualified home owners and buyers.  Tomorrow has the potential to be an even better day with a very important unemployment report scheduled to be released.  If our country’s monthly unemployment report shows higher than expected unemployment numbers, mortgage rates may fall even more!!!  If you want to talk about your refinance options, please give me a call as soon as possible to discuss your options.  Or, please let your friends and family know that you heard from your awesome mortgage and real estate consultant for life that mortgage rates are low and they too should consider refinancing or buying.  Regardless, I appreciate you reading my memos.  Now, I’ve got to slip my colored jacket back on, dive into the pit, and get back to locking more low rates!

Opt In to Opt Out

I attended an insightful seminar today on credit reporting procedures, and it reminded me about a valuable credit protection step everyone should take.  I commented on it as a guest blogger on another web site in April 2008.  It’s message is as important now as it was 16 months ago.  Be sure to read the blog and my comments, and follow through with www.optoutprescreen.com

New Refinance Opportunity, courtesy of President Obama

As you may know, President Obama and the US Treasury have developed a program called “Making Home Affordable” that aims to allow homeowners to refinance at competitive rates even though they may not meet traditional credit and/or home equity requirements.  I believe this program has the potential to open doors for millions of Americans to refinance into super-low fixed rates despite their falling home values, and I want my clients to be the first to seize this opportunity. 

 

The program was announced in early March, and it has taken several weeks for the lending industry to determine how to best implement the program.  Over the last two days, however, the following feature highlights of the program have been announced:

  • Loan-to-value percentages of up to 105% will be allowed, meaning homeowners who have little to no equity may be eligible to refinance
  • No mortgage insurance will be required if the current loan did not originally require mortgage insurance
  • No credit score minimum, but you must have solid mortgage payment history
  • Loans up to $417,000 will be eligible
  • Primary residences, vacation homes and investment properties are all eligible
  • Only loans that are currently owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will be eligible

Beginning next week, “Making Home Affordable” refinances will be offered by two of my top lenders!

 

My team and I will be working over the weekend to exhaustively review hundreds of our client’s situations to better determine who may be eligible for this unprecedented program.  Simply email me at to indicate you would like me to research your eligibility and contact you as soon as possible.  Also, don’t be shy about forwarding my blog to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who may benefit from this program.  I’m sure you have someone you care about that needs this refinance opportunity to improve their financial well-being.  It would be my honor to take care of your loved one in the same trusted manner I have done for you over the years.  Remember, referrals are the heart of my business.

 

As your committed mortgage and real estate consultant, I am excited about proactively working with you in the coming days to take advantage of this long awaited and valuable opportunity.

 

October 2008: Setting the Record Straight About Credit Markets

panicbutton2Does the current economy have you reaching for the panic button?  If so, I hope to calm your nerves and set the record straight about credit markets.  If you have two eyes and a pulse, you’ve undoubtedly been reading and watching reports about the wacky economic conditions our world is facing.  These stories paint the picture of frozen banks refusing to lend to anyone: small businesses can’t get loans, the state of California can’t get loans, and home buyers can’t get loans.  I don’t know about businesses and governments, but I am here to tell you that home buyers are not only getting loans in the current “credit crisis”, but they are getting competitive rates as well.  Let me repeat myself: mortgage loans are still competitive & available for qualifying borrowers.

The only way I know how to prove this is to give you the examples of clients I am working with RIGHT NOW:

1.) 1st-time home buyer Mr. B has a 714 credit score and can document his income.  He has a 5% down payment that he is taking out of his retirement accounts penalty-free.  His rate is currently locked and approved for a 30-year fixed loan at 6.5% without paying any additional mortgage insurance.
2.) 1st-time home buyer Ms. S is a Veteran who qualifies for 100% financing from the federal government.  The seller is paying her closing costs too, so she is buying her home with literally no money down and obtaining a 30-year fixed loan at 6.5%.
3.) 1st-time home buyer Mr. C has a marginal credit score of 646.  However, his 10% down payment along with his $40K in the bank are allowing him to qualify for a 30-year fixed loan at 6.5% with monthly mortgage insurance.
4.) Home-buyer Mr. L has a 20% down payment and awesome credit.  He is obtaining a 30-year fixed rate at 6.00%.

I emphatically share these examples to give you the straight scoop.  Some of these clients are not “perfect” borrowers, yet financing is still available to them.  While the media, who is feeding off our fear, is convincing us our global economy has screeched to a halt, their message is not entirely true.  I assure you that the mortgage industry is still “liquid,” meaning money is flowing from banks to borrowers at healthy rates.

This letter hopefully counters the barrage of over-inflated hysteria you’ve been reading about credit markets; specifically the mortgage market.  I don’t doubt the fact our economy is facing serious and unprecedented issues, but I refute the over-generalizations that are being made about credit markets.  This is not an attempt to find a silver lining, but rather a simple matter of fact.  Mortgage financing is still readily available to help home buyers take advantage of the low prices in our housing market.

Rather than reaching for the panic button, I urge you to stay grounded through these uncertain times.  Don’t follow the herd out of fear.  Lastly, take action to help fix our country’s troubles; get to the polls on November 4th and make a difference.