This year could bring significant changes from 2009 for those seeking home loans. Over the last year, home prices fell to 2003 and earlier levels in many parts of the country. In addition, home loan rates declined to the lowest levels on record and this combination led to the highest home affordability levels ever recorded. Here's a recap of what happened in 2009 and what you need to know for the year ahead.
Would You Like a Sweetener with that Rate?
Interest rates throughout 2009 were artificially low. That's because in late 2008, the Federal Reserve put into place a program for purchasing Mortgage Backed Securities with the intention of lowering mortgage rates. They were successful with reported rates by Freddie Mac falling below 5.00% several times in 2009.
Without this program mortgage rates would have been at least 1.00% higher, and potentially even higher than that. Did you know that a change of 1% in a home loan rate impacts the amount someone can borrow by roughly 10%? For example, if rates are in the low 5.00% range today and they shoot up to the low 6.00% range, $250,000 home buyers may become $225,000 home buyers.
Look for rates to return to 2008 and previous levels as the Fed ends the program on March 31, 2010. While rates will not immediately increase to 6.00% or higher, know that without additional intervention, rising rates are inevitable. Expect that under worst case scenarios, rates could dance around the 7.00% range.
Show Me Your Docs
Contrary to what you may see or hear in the media, money is widely available for people who want to finance their homes. There is one caveat, though. People need to be able to demonstrate that they qualify for the loan amount they are pursuing and that they have been willing to repay debt they have accepted in the past.
To obtain financing today, a borrower needs to supply the lender with all documentation pertaining to their income, liquid assets and potentially items related to their credit reporting. The best preparation path to follow is to gather most recent paystubs for 30 days of earnings, two years W-2s with complete tax returns and three months statements, all pages, for any liquid assets used for qualifying.
The free wheeling days of borrowing whatever people thought they could repay are gone. While some exceptions may be granted for strong compensating factors, total debt to income level will be capped at 45%.
If you haven't checked out your credit reports recently, now is a good time to do so if you plan on seeking financing in the next 12 months. You can pull up your reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Examine your reports for any inaccuracies and work to get them corrected prior to seeking financing. You can also seek assistance from your mortgage professional.
Have We Hit a Bottom in Housing?
If you simply look at the data that is reported, one could surmise that the bottom in U.S. home prices was hit in 2009. One nationally respected index for home price reporting, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, indicates that home prices turned for the better around mid-year in 2009.
While all markets are different and some may continue to show signs of weakness, most communities have demonstrated strength and should continue to do so. However, some potential headwinds do exist for the second and third quarter of 2010, following the expressed expiration dates of several stimulus programs: The Mortgage Backed Securities purchase program and home buyer tax credits, both of which are directed at the housing and the mortgage markets.
Foreclosures and short sales will also continue to influence many of the hardest hit markets as unemployment and resetting adjustable rate mortgages weigh on distressed homeowners.
Dates to Remember
Two dates lie on the horizon that will impact interest rates and potentially home prices. The first program scheduled to end is the Federal Reserve's program for purchasing Mortgage Backed Securities. Announced in November of 2008, the Fed began purchasing $1.25 trillion in mortgage bonds in 2009 which will culminate at the end of March. As the intention and result of this program was to lower rates, mortgage rates will likely begin to rise after the program concludes.
In addition, 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 home buyers and up to $6,500 for repeat home buyers. The credit can be claimed only on contracts that close by June 30, 2010.
Act Now...Not Later
While no one knows for certain what the future holds, one thing does appear clear. Home loan rates and home prices both will be higher in the future. If you or anyone you know is looking to purchase or refinance a home, waiting could be costly!