In 2019 many people expected that the home lending market was going to eventually grow more expensive. Instead, 2020 spent its entire 12 months becoming more affordable when it came to financing a personal home, moving in the opposite direction of what was expected. Not only did the loan cost drop break previous records, but it also presented an additional opportunity for homeowners to reposition and take advantage of lower borrowing costs again.
The General Advantages of a Home Loan Refinance
The refinancing of a mortgage has traditionally been three-fold. First, it is a chance to renegotiate the loan on a home purchase for a lower interest rate, which means more of the borrower’s payment goes to the loan and less to an interest charge. Second, it gives people an option to change the interest rate charged to a shorter payment period, which can also save considerable money. A borrower will pay dozens of thousands less on a 15-year loan versus a 30-year mortgage. Finally, refinancing allows a borrower to tap into home equity to use that cash value to consolidate debt, pay for other big costs, or make renovations to the home without paying out of pocket for them.
Why 2021 Provides a Good Window
By the time 2020 ended, mortgage rates overall were running at all time lows on a conventional 30-year fixed mortgage, an amazing opportunity for the cost of borrowing and probably the lowest possible in 50 years. The dip won’t last forever, as many people have been trying to project, and eventually what goes down also goes back up. Some amount of rising rates is a firm prediction from the National Association of Realtors® for 2021 which has already occurred, and that loan interest rate cost is expected to eventually go somewhat higher by the end of the year if the economy speeds up again. So, the 2021 window for a valuable refinancing opportunity is clearly the beginning half of the year.
Comparing Current Status to “What If”
Obviously, just chasing a mortgage refinance for minimal gain is silly. The amount paid in closing costs can be expensive. However, when the shift can easily be a percentage point difference or more, then it is worth considering. Many people locked in homes at higher rates in the past and are still paying that amount, especially on an adjustable-rate mortgage. Grabbing a fixed mortgage refinance in the current rate environment is definitely worth the work and time, potentially paying for itself in a handful of years or by consolidating higher cost debt into the home loan.
There is no perfect formula that applies to everyone, but 2021 has already shaped up to be the year that the majority of homeowners can definitely benefit from, especially given the need for financial reserves and a bit of personal finance reorganization after 2020. As always, consult with your professional mortgage advisor for details on your personal situation.
Last week’s economic news included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing markets along with Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. Fed Chair Jerome Powell appeared on 60 Minutes. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.
NAHB: Homebuilder Confidence Ticks Up
The National Association of Home Builders reported that home builders’ confidence in housing market conditions rose one point to an index reading of 83. Builder confidence readings over 50 indicate that most builders consider housing market conditions as positive.
Component readings used for the NAHB Housing Market Index were varied. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose one point to 88 and home builders’ confidence in housing markets over the next six months fell two points to 83. The index reading for home buyer traffic in new housing developments rose three points to 75. Homebuilders faced ongoing challenges including supply chain problems, rising materials prices, and meeting the need for affordable homes.
In related news, the Commerce Department reported a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.74 million housing starts in March. 1.77 million building permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual pace in March.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week as the rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped by nine basis points to 3.04 percent; rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped by seven basis points to 2.35 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.80 percent and were 12 basis points lower. Discount points for fixed-rate mortgages averaged 0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims fell to 576,000 claims filed last week as compared to 769,000 initial claims filed the previous week. Ongoing jobless claims were unchanged from the prior week at 3.73 million claims filed.
The Commerce Department released inflation data for March. The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.60 percent as compared to February’s growth rate of 0.40 percent; analysts expected a March reading of 0.50 percent. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel sectors rose 0.30 percent in March and exceeded expectations of 0.20 percent growth. Core inflation rose by 0.10 percent in February.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday; he said that that the global economy would not return to normal until the COVID pandemic is controlled, but he presented a brighter picture for the U.S. economy. He said that the national economy is expected to grow between six to seven percent and that the national unemployment rate could fall to four or five percent from its current rate of six percent.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.
The national reading for home builder confidence rose one point to an index reading of 83 in April; the National Association of Home Builders predicted a reading of 84. Component readings for April’s national index readings were mixed. Builder confidence in current market conditions for single-family homes rose one point to 88. Builder confidence in market conditions for single-family homes in the next six months fell two points to 81 but homebuilder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments rose two points to an index reading of 75.
Readings over 50 indicate a majority of builders are positive about housing market conditions. Buyer traffic readings published before the pandemic rarely exceeded index readings of 50.
Regional Home Builder Confidence Varied
Regional readings for home builder confidence varied in April. The Northeast region reported an index reading of 84 in April, which was two points lower than in March. The Midwestern region’s April reading was three points lower at 75 than in March. Homebuilder confidence in the South rose two points to 84 and builder confidence in the West was unchanged with an index reading of 92.
NAHB’s Three-month moving average of regional homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions reported for the Northeast rose six points to 86; builder confidence in the Midwest fell two points to 78 and builder confidence in housing market conditions rose one point to 83. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the West was unchanged at an index reading of 90.
High Demand for Homes Persists as Materials Costs Limit Affordability
Shortages of available pre-owned homes continued to boost new home sales, but rising materials costs and supply chain issues presented ongoing challenges to builders. NAHB Chair Fowkes said, “The supply chain for residential construction is tight, particularly regarding the cost and availability of lumber, appliances, and other building materials.”
Affordability is a substantial obstacle for first-time and moderate-income home buyers Prices of pre-owned homes are rising at their fastest pace in 15 years as mortgage rates move higher. NAHB Chair Fowkes also said, “Though builders are seeking to keep prices affordable…policymakers must find ways to increase the supply of building materials as the economy runs hot in 2021.”
Homebuilders and potential home buyers can expect ongoing challenges in 2021. As home prices rise, fewer families can enter the housing markets; other potential buyers may decide to postpone buying homes until home price growth eases.
Twenty years ago the economy was putting the dot-com bubble behind it, and people were buying homes. The high majority of folks worked for someone else; they received a paycheck, were given a W-2 from their employer, and filed their income tax returns accordingly.
This also provided easy documentation to loan officers when folks wanted to borrow a mortgage to buy a home. As of 2019 36 percent of workers in 2020 were identified as bona fide gig workers per the federal government, or a bit more than 1 out of every 3 workers. That change translates to mortgage application processes today.
However, house loan processes have been particularly strict since 2009, especially due to how flexible and liberal loan reviews were at the time during the 2000s real estate bubble that ended that year and almost took down the major banking system in the collapse. For gig workers who essentially function as their own small businesses or as independent contractors, there is no consolidated income report aside from income tax filings.
Most have earned their money from multiple sources to make up a full living income. As a result, matching gig income to a traditional mortgage model can be challenging. Here’s what gig workers should anticipate and be prepared to answer as a result.
Definitive Proof of Income
For the gig worker proof of income is practically the same as showing how a small business produces a net profit sufficient to be invested in when asking for a business loan. As a gig worker, you won’t have a W-2 statement that is accepted as universal proof of your income and ability to pay a loan payment. So, you will need to provide a substitute that can be independently verified.
That means your income proof will need to show your bank statements evidencing all major payments coming in as well as matched by your IRS Schedule C and IRS Form 1040 showing how your income is arrived at. Because IRS forms are under penalty of perjury, they are considered a reliable income proof source for lenders. Some lenders may go further and want to see MISC 1099 forms received by clients for the last three years as well. Bank statements can reinforce assets’ availability as well, but they are not a full substitute.
Keep Your Credit Card Debt Nil or Low
Many independent workers ride on credit cards to pay bills in between jobs. Unfortunately, this also inflates personal debt, which mortgage lenders don’t want to see. To be successful with a mortgage as a gig worker, your credit card balances need to be kept as low as possible. You can have other debt, but it is best to be structured like a student loan or car loan. These don’t change from month to month and are predictable, but a credit card balance can grow quickly, creating a lending risk. Pay pending bills, lower the balance, and shift the debt to other financial tools if you can. The less revolving debt (credit cards), the better.
Boost the Down Payment
Having a larger down payment works wonders in any mortgage application. The traditional amount is 20 percent of the price of the home you want to buy. If you’re in that range, great. If not, save more. Talk with your lending professional to find out about lower down payment options as well. Don’t forget your closing costs. In some cases, those can be contributed by the seller of the home. Once again, your lending professional will be able to give you the best advice for your situation.
Finally, don’t apply for a mortgage well beyond your income level and savings. You’re just wasting a lot of time and setting up for a disappointment. Focus instead on having a sizable down payment, documented income, and a home price well within your combined payment range. This will bolster your application and resolve a lot of concerns that otherwise get a denial.
Talk with your real estate and mortgage lending professionals for details based on your personal situation.
At the flowers begin to bloom and the weather starts to warm up, everyone is thinking about spring cleaning. It is critical to make sure the house is ready for the warmer weather. What are the top spring maintenance tasks that have to be completed? Do not procrastinate on these tasks, as the price could be high.
Prune The Trees Before They Start To Bloom
Take a closer look at the trees, particularly those that hang over the house. As they begin to bloom, the weight on these branches could start to increase. If that happens, branches could snap over the house, leading to serious roof damage. Prune these trees before they start to bloom. If they are too high, it may be better to reach out to a trained professional who can prune them safely.
Always Look For Signs of Leaks And Water Damage
Check around the house for signs of leaks and water damage. If the floor is buckling, the walls are starting to change color, or the water bill is going up without an explanation, these could be signs there is a leak somewhere. Address any signs of water leakage now. Waiting to address a water leak could lead to serious repair bills down the road. Be sure to get the plumbing system maintained regularly. That way, these leaks can be avoided.
Inspect The Water Heater
Take a closer look at the water heater. It is important to get it inspected by a trained professional once per year. Over time, mineral scaling and gunk can accumulate in the water heater. It needs to be flushed regularly. Even though online tutorials can be helpful, it may be better to reach out to trained professionals who have the equipment to do this properly. In addition, professionals may take a look at other areas of the water heater that might have to be addressed.
Get Ready For Spring
These are a few of the most important spring cleaning maintenance tasks that have to be completed now. Make sure these systems are ready to go before they are called upon. If homeowners do not procrastinate on these important tasks, they could save a lot of money down the road.