Tag Archives: Mortgage Bankers Association

Low Rates, High Obstacles to Refinancing Mortgage

As interest rates have slid over the past couple of years, Gabriel Bousbib of Englewood, N.J., refinanced his 15-year mortgage not once, but twice-cutting his interest rate in two steps from about 4.6 percent to 3.375 percent.

He’s one of a number of homeowners who refinanced just a year or two ago, but decided it was worth considering again as mortgage rates hit record lows-now averaging around 4 percent for a 30-year loan.

refinancing your home“When you’re quoting rates in the high 3s, people are saying, ‘It’s worth it to me,'” says Steve Hoogerhyde, executive vice president at Clifton Savings Bank.

“My monthly savings are going down a few hundred dollars; it adds up over 15 years,” said Bousbib, a financial services executive. “And if rates keep going down, I would refinance again.”

Refinance applications have more than doubled over the past year, though they’re not as high as in previous refinancing booms because it’s harder to qualify in the current atmosphere of tighter credit standards, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. With the volume of home purchases still low, refinancing accounts for about 80 percent of recent activity.

Although the old guideline used to be that you should consider refinancing only when rates drop at least 2 percentage points, the new wisdom is that it can be worthwhile even with smaller drops.

“For most people, if you can shave three-quarters of a percentage point off your interest rate, it’s worth looking at,” says Greg McBride, an analyst with Bankrate.com, a personal finance website.

For homeowners who plan to stick with the same loan term and want to lower their monthly payments, the math is straightforward. Find out how much it will cost to refinance, figure out how much you’ll save each month and then how long it will take to break even. If you can save enough to offset the refinancing costs within a year or two-or even longer if you expect to stay in the house for a number of years-it’s worth considering.

Though low-interest rates are eye-poppingly low, the refinancing climate has changed from the easy-money days of five years ago. Generally, to get the best rates, homeowners need a 740 FICO credit score, well above the median score of 711. They also usually need at least 10 to 20 percent equity in the property. A recent expansion in the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program should allow refinancing this year by more so-called underwater borrowers – those who owe more than their homes are worth.

Lenders are also demanding much more documentation – including pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements – than they did five years ago, at the insistence of government regulators as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy mortgages from lenders.

“You have to have a taste for doing paperwork,” says Keith Gumbinger of HSH Associates, a Pompton Plains, N.J., company that tracks mortgage data. “You’re going to be asked for lots of documents. No one loves the process to begin with, and in today’s environment, it’s even less palatable.”

These stricter requirements are simply a return to the kind of underwriting standards that prevailed before lending standards slackened a few years back, leading to the housing bust and foreclosure crisis, McBride says.

“We’re in this mess because money was too easy to get,” he says.

Refinancing costs roughly $3,000, according to several mortgage companies. That covers costs like an appraisal, title insurance, application fees, attorney’s fees and recording the mortgage. Some lenders also offer low- or no-cost options, which they can do by either adding the closing costs to the mortgage amount or charging a slightly higher interest rate.

Bousbib, for example, took a no-cost refinance with Equity Now, a New York-based lender that also lends in New Jersey. “It didn’t cost me a penny,” he says. Equity Now says it charges a slightly higher interest rate on no-cost loans.

Lowering the monthly payment is not the only reason people are refinancing. Many are shifting from a 30-year loan to shorter terms, said Matthew Gratalo of Real Estate Mortgage Network in River Edge, N.J. He has worked with clients in their 40s who hate the thought of carrying a mortgage into retirement.

“They’re looking ahead and saying, ‘I don’t want to pay a mortgage forever; can I get this done in 15 years? Can I be done with this and have it paid off?’ ” Gratalo says.

“Certainly shortening the term makes a lot of sense because you can cut years of mortgage payments,” says Carl Nielsen of Mortgage Master Inc.’s Wayne office.

Nielsen, for example, recently talked to a customer with a $375,000, 30-year mortgage at 4.5 percent. The customer is considering a 20-year mortgage at 3.75 percent. His monthly payments would go from $1,900 to about $2,223, but by shortening the life of the loan, he’ll save more than $150,000 in interest payments.

“That’s kind of a no-brainer,” says Nielsen.

Sources: Greg McBride, Bankrate.com ©2012 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), Distributed by RISMedia and MCT Information Services.

Foreclosure backlogs persist

The improving job market and economy is helping push mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure starts down, but the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process remains stubbornly high, especially in states most affected by robo-signing issues, according to a quarterly survey of lenders by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Since peaking at 10.1 percent in March 2010, the percentage of borrowers behind on their house payments has fallen to a seasonally adjusted 7.6 percent at the end of 2011 — about halfway to the pre-recession average of roughly 5 percent, said MBA Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann.

The percentage of loans entering the foreclosure process — which before the downturn averaged just under 0.5 percent — has also declined, from a peak of 1.4 percent at the end of third-quarter 2009 to 1 percent at the end of fourth-quarter 2011.

But at 4.4 percent, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of 2011 was not far off the all-time high of 4.6 percent seen at the end of 2010. That compares to the long-term norm of roughly 1.2 percent.

Robo-signing issues — which lenders hope to put behind them this year as they implement recently announced settlement with state attorneys general — have created foreclosure backlogs.

While foreclosure starts are falling, it’s taking loan servicers longer to auction off or repossess homes once they enter the foreclosure process, particularly in states where courts oversee the process.

In “judicial foreclosure” states where courts handle most foreclosures, 6.8 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure at the end of 2011. In “nonjudicial” foreclosure states where most foreclosures are processed outside of the court system, loan servicers are clearing the backlog more quickly, and 2.8 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure.

The MBA survey covers 42.9 million loans on one- to four-unit residential properties, or about 88 percent of all first-lien mortgages. Extrapolating the survey’s results suggests that of the 48.75 million mortgages outstanding at the end of 2011, 2.13 million were in the foreclosure process.

Five states accounted for more than half of all loans in foreclosure — Florida, California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey. All but California are judicial foreclosure states.

The 10 states with the greatest percentage of mortgages in foreclosure were: Florida (14.27 percent), New Jersey (8.21 percent), Illinois (7.41 percent), Nevada (7.03 percent), Maine (5.92 percent), New York (5.88 percent), Connecticut (5.05 percent), Hawaii (4.97 percent), Ohio (4.94 percent), and Indiana (4.94 percent). All but Nevada are judicial foreclosure states.

The states with the lowest foreclosure rates were: Wyoming (1.03 percent), North Dakota (1.05 percent), Alaska (1.06 percent), Nebraska (1.55 percent), South Dakota (1.75 percent), Montana (1.76 percent), Texas (1.78 percent), Virginia (1.84 percent), Alabama (1.94 percent), and Arkansas (1.97 percent). Among those states, only North Dakota handles foreclosures judicially.

Moderate Growth Projected for 2012

Overall, growth is expected to continue for the year, but at a modest rate, according to the Fannie Mae February 2012 Economic Outlook report.

Economic growth is projected to be at 2.3 percent for 2012, an increase compared to 1.6 percent last year, according to the report.

For the first time in seven years, the housing market is projected to contribute to gross domestic product (GDP), the report also stated, but by a very modest amount.

“Risks to the forecast are more balanced between the upside and downside since our January forecast,” said Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan. “The economy appears to be more resilient than in previous months, and should be less vulnerable to shocks, including any spillover from the European sovereign debt crisis”…

Read the rest of this article (and photo) by DSNews.com here: “Moderate Growth Projected for 2012.”

Top six reasons mortgage applications are rejected

Half of refinance applications are abandoned or rejected, as are 30 percent of purchase mortgage applications, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. All told, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) says that well over 2 million mortgage applications were rejected last year.

Want to avoid falling into that number? It’s tough — especially in light of the fact that mortgage lenders have become increasingly restrictive in terms of their lending guidelines since the housing market crash.

Here, as a cautionary tale and primer on what to expect, are the top six reasons mortgage lenders reject applications.FFIEC

1. Income issues. Most failed applications falling into this category have income too low for the mortgage amount they are seeking; often, a spouse’s credit issues can create this problem, too, as the income the spouse plans to actually chip in toward the mortgage cannot be considered by a lender.

But increasingly, the recent vagaries of the job market are also causing this issue, as people who have changed their line of work or have changed from salaried employee to freelancer over the last couple of years can also have their home loan applications rejected based on income.

2. Muddled money matters. If the mortgage for which you’re applying plus your monthly payments on credit card, car and student loan debts will comprise more than 45 percent of your total income, you could have problems qualifying for a home loan. You might also run into problems if you rely too heavily on bonuses, overtime, cash wages or rental income — all of these can be difficult or impossible to get a mortgage bank to consider, and if they do, they might not take all of it into account.

3. Credit issues. Today, the mortgage-qualifying FICO score cutoff falls somewhere between 620 and 660, depending on which lender and which loan type you seek. More than one-third of Americans, by some numbers, have credit scores too low to qualify for a home loan. Even if your credit score is high enough to qualify, if you have any late mortgage payments, a short sale, a foreclosure or a bankruptcy in the last two years, loan qualifying could be difficult to impossible.

4. Property didn’t appraise. Since the whole industry had its hand smacked for allowing home values to skyrocket in a very short time, appraisal guidelines have tightened up — some would say, even more than overall mortgage guidelines. So, it is increasingly common to have the property appraise for a price lower than the sale price negotiated between the buyer and seller.

This is especially common in the refinance realm, as well over a quarter of U.S. homes are now upside-down, meaning the mortgage balance owed is greater than the value of the home.

5. Condition problems. With all the distressed properties on the market, and with most non-distressed sellers barely breaking even, more home-sale transactions than ever are falling apart due to condition problems with the property. Many lenders will not extend financing on homes where the appraiser points out problems like cracked or broken windows, missing kitchen appliances, electrical problems, or wood rot.

And in the world of condos and other units that belong to a homeowners association, if more than 25 percent of units are rented (rather than owner-occupied) or more than 15 percent are delinquent on their HOA dues, new applications for refinance or purchase mortgages on units in the development are likely to be rejected.

6. Technical difficulties with application. The days when lenders just took your word for it are long, long gone. Applications with incomplete or unverifiable information are doomed.

If any of these mortgage loan application glitches arise in your homebuying or refinancing process, it’s critical that you connect with your mortgage professional, be it your banker or mortgage broker, to determine what course of action to take.

In some cases, it might be as simple as buying a stove you find at Craigslist and installing it before escrow closes; but with income issues your mortgage pro will need to help you determine whether it makes sense to pay some bills down, get a co-signer, or even wait six months so your income documentation will qualify.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is an author and the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com.