Real Estate Blog

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 13, 2011

Mortgage markets moved in feverish fashion last week, changing with extreme frequency, and eventually ending slightly worse on the week. Conforming mortgage rates fell to a 6-month low Wednesday but, by Friday, they had retreated higher.

Last week marked just the second time in 8 weeks that rates in Phoenix increased. During that span, Freddie Mac reports that mortgage rates have dropped 42 basis points, or 0.42%.

That equates to a monthly savings of $25.24 per $100,000 borrowed.

One reason why mortgage rates have been dropping is that the economy is growing more slowly than projected. In a speech last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described the U.S. recovery as “frustratingly slow”. In a separate speech, another Federal Reserve President, William Dudley, categorized the recovery as “subpar”.

Economic weakness tends to promote a low mortgage rate environment as equity markets sell off and investors seek safety of principal. Indeed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for the 6th straight week, its longest losing streak since 2002.

Mortgage rates were also helped by ongoing uncertainty in Greece. The nation remains at-risk for default, and that’s spurring a bond market to flight-to-quality which benefits the U.S. mortgage market, too.

This week, mortgage rates may reverse their recent slide. There isn’t much data due for release, but the numbers that will hit the wires have the ability to move markets — especially the inflation-linked figures.

  • Tuesday : Producer Price Index, Retail Sales
  • Wednesday : Consumer Price Index
  • Thursday : Housing Starts
  • Friday : Consumer Sentiment

If you’ve been looking at mortgage rates for a purchase or refinance, now may be a good time to lock. FHA and conforming rates are at their lowest levels since December 2010.

Going forward, rates have much more room to rise than to fall.

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Do You Know What Questions To Ask Your Lender?

A mortgage comes with many moving pieces and understanding them is the key getting a great deal. Unfortunately, studies show that few Americans have a firm grasp of how mortgages work — from mortgage types to mortgage fees.

In this back-to-basics interview on NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn some mortgage planning basics to help you get smarter with your next home loan in Scottsdale or anywhere else — purchase or refinance.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • The mortgage applicants for whom adjustable-rate mortgages are a better choice than fixed-rate mortgages
  • Why you should include “How Good Is This Lender?”-type questions in the rate shopping process
  • What a pre-approval letter is good for, and what it is not good for

There is also one of the most simple explanations of “discount points” ever offered on network television.

The video runs 4-and-a-half minutes. For first-time buyers and experienced ones, it’s worth a watch. You’ll pick up some tips to use on your next mortgage.

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Moving To A New City? See How Much Your Cost Of Living Will Change.

It’s a fact: It’s more expensive to live in some cities than others. Beyond just the costs of buying a home, different cities also carry a different Cost of Living. For households relocating from AZ and  across state lines, the change in “life costs” can be jarring.

Depending on where you live, everyday expenses — from groceries to gasoline — make a different-sized dent in a household budget. And now you can see in numbers by how much your expenses might change.

Visit’s Cost of Living Comparison Calculator.

The Cost of Living Comparison calculator is as basic as it is thorough. The calculator asks just 3 questions —  (1) Where do you live now, (2) To what city are you moving, and (3) What is your salary — and uses your answers to produce a detailed, 60-item cost comparison between the two towns.

The city-to-city cost comparisons include:

  • Dry Cleaning Costs
  • Total Energy Costs
  • Beauty Salon Costs
  • Movie Costs
  • Dentist Visit Costs

The list also features a mortgage rate comparison, and a comparison of local home prices.

The Cost of Living calculator is based on data from the ACCRA. On the ACCRA website, a similar report sells for $5. At, the information is free.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 6, 2011

Mortgage markets improved last week, carried by the same stories that have led markets better since April. Worries of a Eurozone sovereign debt default mounted, and the U.S. economy’s revival showed itself to be slower than originally anticipated.

In Greece, the nation readied itself for its second bailout in two years. The austerity measures of last year have not worked as planned. There are concerns that a default would lead to contagion, delivering the Euro region into an economic tailspin.

These fears spurred a flight-to-quality in bond circles to the benefit of U.S. mortgage rate shoppers.

In addition, last week’s U.S. jobs data fell short of expectations, giving another boost to mortgage markets.

There were 3 weak reports:

  1. ADP showed 38,000 private-sector jobs created in May. Analysts expected 170,000.
  2. The Department of Labor showed 422,000 Initial Jobless Claims. Analysts expected 415,000.
  3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 54,000 jobs created in May. Analysts expected 150,000.

Each of these data points underscores the fragile nature of the U.S. recovery, and the weaker-than-expected readings helped mortgage rates improve.

It’s the sixth week of 7 that mortgage rates in Mesa have improved, setting the stage for a new wave of refinances.

This week, there is very little new data on which for mortgage bonds to trade. Therefore, expect the stories from recent weeks to continue to dominate headlines. If Greece’s austerity and/or bailout plan is met with investor optimism, mortgage rates should rise. If the plan falls flat, mortgage rates should fall.

There will also be chatter about the U.S. debt ceiling, another potentially negative force on mortgage rates.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate right now, consider locking in. There’s a lot more room for rates to rise than to fall.

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Case-Shiller Shows Home Values Rolling Back 9 Years

The March Case-Shiller Index was released this week and it corroborates the findings of the government’s most recent Home Price Index — home values are slipping nationwide.

According to the Case-Shiller Index’s publisher, Standard & Poors, home values fell in March from the year prior.

The March report was among the worst Case-Shiller Index readings in 3 years. On a monthly basis, 18 of 20 tracked markets worsened. Only Seattle and Washington, D.C. showed improvement, rising 0.1% and 1.1%, respectively.

On an annual basis, price degradation was even worse.

Washington, D.C. is the only tracked market to post higher home values for March 2011 as compared to March 2010. The national index has now dropped to mid-2002 levels.

As a buyer in today’s market, though, you can’t take the Case-Shiller Index at face value. It’s methodology is far too flawed to be the “final word” in home prices.

The first big Case-Shiller Index flaw is its relatively small sample size. S&P positions the Case-Shiller Index as a national index but its data comes from just 20 cities total. And they’re not the 20 most populous cities, either. Notably missing from the Case-Shiller Index list are Houston (#4), Philadelphia (#5), San Antonio (#7) and San Jose (#10).

Minneapolis (#48) and Tampa (#55) are included, by contrast.

A second Case-Shiller flaw is how it measures a change in home price. Because the index throws out all sales except for “repeat sales” of the same home, the Case-Shiller Index fails to capture the “complete” U.S. market. It also specifically excludes condominiums and multi-family homes.

In some cities — such as Chicago — homes of these types can represent a large percentage of the market.

And, lastly, a third Case-Shiller Index flaw is that it’s on a 2-month delay. It’s June and we’re only now getting home data from March. Today’s market is similar — but not the same — to what buyers and sellers faced in March. The Case-Shiller Index is far less useful than real-time data of a city or neighborhood.

The Case-Shiller Index is more useful to economists and policy-makers than to everyday buyers and sellers in Mesa. For better real estate data for your particular neighborhood, ask your real estate agent for help.

A real estate agent can tell you which homes have sold in the last 7 days, and at what prices. The Case-Shiller Index cannot.

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Mortgage Guidelines Start To Loosen At The Country’s Biggest Banks

Another quarter, another sign that mortgage lending may be easing nationwide.

The Federal Reserve’s quarterly survey of senior loan officers revealed that an overwhelmingly majority of U.S. banks have stopped tightening mortgage requirements for “prime borrowers”.

A prime borrower is one with a well-documented credit history, high credit scores, and a low debt-to-income ratio.

Of the 53 responding “big banks”, 49 reported that mortgage guidelines were “basically unchanged” last quarter. Of the remaining four banks, two said mortgage guidelines had “eased somewhat”, and the remaining banks said guidelines “tightened somewhat”.

It’s the second straight quarter in which fewer than 5 percent of banks tightened guidelines, and the first quarter in nearly 5 years in which the number of banks that loosened guidelines equaled the number of banks tightening them.

The easing in mortgage lending is a positive development for the housing market; and for buyers in Phoenix and nationwide. Looser lending standards means that more buyers will be approved for home loans, and that should spur home sales forward across the region.

However, don’t confuse “looser standards” with “irresponsible standards”. It’s much more difficult to get financing today as compared to 2006. Delinquencies and defaults have altered how a bank reviews a loan application.

Today, underwriters are more conservative with respect to household income, total assets and overall credit scores. Even as compared to just 6 months ago:

  • Minimum credit score requirements are higher
  • Downpayment/equity requirements are larger
  • Maximum allowable debt-to-income ratios are lower

If you can get approved, though, your reward is that mortgage rates are especially low. Since early-April, both conforming and FHA mortgage rates have been on a downward trajectory, and pricing is near a 6-month low.

Home affordability is at an all-time high, too.

Looser guidelines and lower rates should help fuel home demand through the summer months. If you’re in the market to buy, your timing appears to be excellent.

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