Archive for December, 2009

If Borrowers Snooze, they may lose… Help Avoid This Costly Mistake

December 30, 2009

False Illusions and What You Need to Know

Homebuyer Alert…

For prospective homebuyers who are on the fence about making a home purchase, the next few months represent a countdown of sorts for two reasons.

The first of these, the coming expiration of huge tax incentives, may be a bit more obvious to most borrowers. April 30, 2010 is the last day to enter into a home purchase contract and still potentially qualify for a federal income tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers and up to $6,500 for repeat homebuyers. The credit can be claimed only on contracts that close by June 30, 2010.

Secondly, beyond the waning benefit of the Federal income tax incentive, another form of stimulus will soon disappear, as the Federal Reserve winds down a program that has been keeping home loan rates artificially low.

Rate Alert…

The lowest rates of 2009 were driven down to their attractive levels because of the Fed’s Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) purchase program. Home loan rates have an inverse relationship with the value of MBS. When these securities trade higher on the market, rates move lower and vice-versa. So when the Fed originally agreed to be a big buyer, it helped provide a market for MBS, which helped keep prices high and, as a result, helped push home loan rates low.

And while the Fed continues that program through the end of March 2010, the reality is that the Fed‘s “extension” was really more of a rationing intended to prevent home loan rates from spiking as the program is phased out. It’s sort of like weaning the market off of its life-saving treatment instead of forcing it to go cold turkey.

Already, some in the media have mistakenly reported the extension of the program through March as good news, telling consumers that rates will continue to decline, and remain low into the spring. This gives a false sense of security that homebuyers and refinancers simply cannot afford.

The problem is…

Those reports do not accurately report what’s going on or where rates are really headed. That can have a very costly impact on consumers who may miss out on historically low rates if they listen to these media outlets.

Here’s what’s really going on…

In May 2009, the Federal Reserve’s purchases of MBS peaked at an average of $25 Billion per week. As of November, the average weekly purchases dropped down to $14 Billion. At the end of November, the Fed had already used over 80% of the allocated funds for MBS, meaning less than 20% remained to be used over four months.

Making the problem worse is that the Fed now has less money available to purchase MBS while at the same time, the supply of these securities has increased as a result of refinance and purchase activity that was triggered by lower rates.

Why is that important?

As the Fed now has fewer funds to last through the remaining months of the program, its ability to keep rates low will wane.
As the Fed’s program winds down and ends, we’ll likely see two things happen.

First, we will probably see higher levels of volatility—with rates sometimes shifting dramatically in the middle of the day. That means it is more important than ever for buyers to work with a knowledgeable mortgage professional who has a finger on the pulse of the market at all times and can provide trusted, proven advice.

Second, since MBS will have less support from the Fed, rates are likely to rise over time.

In short, while rates are still very good, they may not be for long.

What should you do to protect yourself?

First and foremost, work with a knowledgeable mortgage originator who studies and monitors the market.

Second, don’t be fooled by media stories that only report the headlines and don’t understand the underlying implications of the Fed’s actions. If you ever hear something in the news but aren’t sure what it means to your situation, feel free to call or email me for in-depth answers and advice.

Finally, if you haven’t yet explored how the current rate environment might benefit you or someone you know, let’s arrange a time to sit down and discuss your unique situation as well as your short- and long-term goals. Remember, rates are still very good, but they may not be for long.

Extended Tax Credit

December 30, 2009

Tax Credit for Homebuyers

First-Time Homebuyers (FTHBs): First-time homebuyers (that is, people who have not owned a home within the last three years) may be eligible for the tax credit. The credit for FTHBs is 10% of the purchase price of the home, with a maximum available credit of $8,000.

Single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return may qualify for the full tax credit amount.

Current Owners: The tax credit program now gives those who already own a residence some additional reasons to move to a new home. This incentive comes in the form of a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified purchasers who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years.

Single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return may qualify for the full tax credit amount.

What are the New Deadlines?

In order to qualify for the credit, all contracts need to be in effect no later than April 30, 2010 and close no later than June 30, 2010.

Tax Credit Versus Tax Deduction

It’s important to remember that the tax credit is just that… a tax credit. The benefit of a tax credit is that it’s a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction, rather than a reduction in a tax liability that would only save you $1,000 to $1,500 when all was said and done. So, if a first-time homebuyer were to owe $8,000 in income taxes and would qualify for a tax credit of $8,000, she would owe nothing.

Better still, the tax credit is refundable, which means the homebuyer can receive a check for the credit if he or she has little income tax liability. For example, if a first-time homebuyer is eligible for a tax credit of $8,000 but is liable for $4,000 in income tax, she can still receive a check for the remaining $4,000!

Higher Income Caps

The amount of income someone can earn and qualify for the full amount of the credit has been increased.

Single tax filers who earn up to $125,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, single filers who earn $145,000 and above are ineligible

Joint filers who earn up to  $225,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, joint filers who earn $245,000 and above are ineligible.

Maximum Purchase Price

Qualifying buyers may purchase a property with a maximum sale price of $800,000.


Remember, the new tax credit program includes a number of details and qualifications. For more information or answers to specific questions, please call or email me today.

In addition, you may be able to benefit from additional housing related provisions, including the following:


Tax Incentives to Spur Energy Savings and Green Jobs

This provision is designed to help promote energy-efficient investments in homes by extending and expanding tax credits through 2010 for purchases such as new furnaces, energy-efficient windows and doors, or insulation.

Landmark Energy Savings

This provision provides $5 Billion for energy efficient improvements for more than one million modest-income homes through weatherization. According to some estimates, this can help modest-income families save an average of $350 a year on heating and air conditioning bills.

Repairing Public Housing and Making Key Energy Efficiency Retrofits To HUD-Assisted Housing

This provision provides a total of $6.3 Billion for increasing energy efficiency in federally supported housing programs. Specifically, it establishes a new program to upgrade HUD-sponsored low-income housing (for elderly, disabled, and Section 8) to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and frames.

Expanding Housing Assistance

This provision increases support for several critical housing programs. It includes $2 Billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant properties.

As always, if you have any questions about your specific situation or would like to discuss how you may benefit from this program, please call or email me. I’ll be happy to sit down with you.

Revised HUD Settlement Booklet

December 30, 2009

Revised HUD Settlement Booklet

The newly revised HUD Settlement Cost Booklet must be used with all loan applications taken on or after January 1st, 2010.  The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) requires mortgage brokers to give this booklet to consumers within three days of applying for a purchase money mortgage loan.

Elements of the Booklet

The booklet contains 13 sections, including detailed explanations on the various line items of the new GFE and HUD-1 forms.

The make-up of the booklet includes:

  • An introduction describing the purpose of the booklet
  • A timeline of events that could take place from the time the consumer decides to purchase a house to the move-in date
  • Information on what the consumer should consider before buying a home
  • A section on determining what is affordable
  • What and who is involved in shopping for a house, i.e., real estate broker, attorney, builder, etc.
  • Information on shopping for a loan
  • A line-by-line explanation of the Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 forms
  • Information about the loan after settlement, home equity and refinancing
  • A glossary of terms, HUD contact information and “do” and “don’t” tips from HUD.


The Settlement Cost Booklet is intended to provide consumers with the tools they need to make more informed decisions about the costs they will incur in the mortgage transaction.

Link to Booklet

Home Prices On The Rise, Says The October Home Price Index Report

December 30, 2009

Home Price Index April 2007 to October 2009

More positive signals from housing — home values are still on the rise.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, after posting its first quarterly increase since 2007 this past September, the Home Price Index rose by another 0.6 percent in October.

Prices are up in 4 of the last six months.

But before we take the stats to the proverbial bank, it’s important that we recognize the Home Price Index for its shortcomings.

  1. HPI only accounts for homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  2. HPI only accounts for re-sold homes — newly-built homes are excluded
  3. HPI aggregates national data whereas real estate markets are local phenomena

On a broad scale, the Home Price Index can be useful, but it doesn’t specifically apply to any specific U.S. market.  For that, analysts tend to turn to the Case-Shiller Index, a privately-produced report that assesses home values in 20 cities nationwide.


The good news for home sellers is that Case-Shiller’s most recent report corroborates the government’s conclusion — home values are creeping back.

Home buyers should pay attention. When public and private sector data is in accord, markets tend to go along and, looking back, housing likely bottomed in February 2009.  Since then, home sales are up, home supplies are down, and values have increased in most U.S. markets.  Furthermore, so long as mortgage rates remain low and government stimulus is in place, the trend should continue through at least the first quarter of 2010.

If you’re on the fence about buying a home right now, or wondering about timing, consider your options vis-a-vis today’s market.  Into the new year, homes won’t likely be as cheap to buy, nor to finance.