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How Has the U.S. Managed to Avoid Another Foreclosure Crisis?

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As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the United States last spring and states announced shut downs, many Americans found themselves unemployed or underemployed.  As a result, the federal government took swift action to provide mortgage payment relief by allowing homeowners to enter forbearance.  A year later, as of March 2021, 2.5 million homeowners were still in forbearance, according to the Mortgage Bankers of America.

Realtor.com published an article, noting the opinions of experts who explain that, despite this alarming number of U.S. homeowners behind on payments, a potential foreclosure crisis is unlikely.  In the article, reporter Sharon Lurye explains, the current housing market conditions are likely to provide a safety net for many of homeowners.  Houses, in many parts of the United States, continue to be in high demand and the inventory remains low.  Coupled with low interest rates, homeowners behind on payments, possible nearing the end of their forbearance, could still decide to sell the home for a profit. Additionally, as Americans getting their footing and learn to adjust to the current conditions, forbearance rates dropping nationwide.

Nevertheless, there are still areas of the country where homeowners are not only seriously behind on payments, but the housing market is not as strong due to weak economies and lack of employment.  These homeowners will continue to need assistance by reaching out to their lender with the hopes of renegotiating the terms of their loan in a way that makes it feasible to make the payments.  Still, some may decide to just sell and move to a rental property, assuming they can find a property to rend. 

The good news, it seems that the U.S. isn’t headed toward a wide-spread foreclosure crisis, however there are Americans that continue to struggle and may for months and years to come.

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What Do Experts Predict for the 2021 Housing Market?

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As the new year rolled in, many have reflected on a year of unexpected and historic events and how they impacted many aspects of the lives of Americans.  The real estate market had its share of ups and downs as Americans adjusted to new realities of shutdowns, spending more time at home, and mortgage rates that continue to remain exceptionally low.  It leaves many real estate professionals and American homeowners and would-be home owners trying to predict what 2021 could possibly have in store for them.

In a piece published by Norada Real Estate Investments, written by Marco Santarelli, many questions for the future of the market in 2021 are posed and explanations and predictions are provided.  The article addresses questions Americans might have about a potential affordability crisis, if the value of homes will continue to rise, what the trends in new home construction might be and whether or not a housing market crash is predicted in 2021.

Santarelli indicates, “While we still face economic and health challenges ahead, it is no doubt that the nation will continue to recover from this pandemic and an improving economy will continue to prop up the housing market competition. Industry experts believe the housing market will remain strong and is set to break more records in 2021.”  He describes how it continues to be a seller’s market and a continued rise in home prices could lead to affordability issues.

To add, some experts, such as Zillow Economic Research, predict that home values will, in fact, continue to increase.  Some predictions call for a 3.6% increase over the next three months and appreciate of home value by up to 10% through the end of 2021. 

As the demands for houses continues to outpace the availability, new home construction attempts to fill the gap.  However, according to the article, “Land and material availability and a persistent skilled labor shortage will continue to place upward pressure on construction costs resulting in limited housing supply.”

Read the entire article for more predictions for 2021.

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Is Now the Time to Lock in a Low Mortgage Rate?

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2020 is wrapping up and it has been quite a year, to say the least.  With just a few weeks left in this year, Americans anticipate many upcoming changes from political to medical.  However, some may wonder what to expect from the mortgage and real estate markets.

According to an article published by Realtor Magazine, “Mortgage rates have hit new record lows 13 times this year, the latest in November”.  Its predicted that the rates will hover near a record low of 2.9% throughout December.  Further, some economy experts expect these low rates to continue into 2021, perhaps with slight increases, with a possible 3.10% 30 year mortgage by the end of the first quarter of 2021. 

However, not all agree with those 2021 predictions.  The article details other predictions, “Fannie Mae predicts the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will average about 2.8% through the end of next year. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts a 2.9% average in December and a 3.3% average for 2021. Freddie Mac predicts an average of 3% over the next 13 months.”

Nevertheless, the available mortgage rates have, throughout 2020, and will continue to boost the real estate activity.  The low rates are opening opportunities of home buying to many more, with a much more affordable monthly payment.  Additionally, homeowners are able to refinance into these lower rates and save money on their existing monthly payments.

Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of REALTORS®, advises home buyers should lock in the low mortgage rates now if they can.”

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What Went Wrong with the CARES Act?

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In response to COVID-19 related economic struggles many Americans are facing, Congress passed the CARES Act.  One benefit to Americans that was to come from this $2 trillion act that was made law in March 2020, was a ban on evictions on many rental units in the United States.  Effective until the end of July, federally financed properties, such as rental units backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, landlords were restricted from evicting their tenants.

One glaring issue with the act, according to an article published by CNBC.com is, ” the law failed to protect many struggling tenants during the pandemic because there was little effort to ensure that landlords followed it.”  The act does not detail any penalty for violating it, so it, in some cases, has been treated as more of a “guideline”.   Landlords across the country have moved forward with evicting their tenants, many of which did not realize they were protected by the CAREs Act and did not hire legal representation to assist them with challenging the eviction. 

The effects are devastating.   As one example, in Iowa, he article indicates “Data provided to CNBC by Iowa Legal Aid shows that during one week in July in Polk County, where Des Moines is located, 40% of the families forced to leave their homes were through evictions that violated either the state or CARES Act moratorium. “

President Trump signed an executive order shortly have the CARES Act expired, yet many experts in the housing advocate field indicate that it provides protection to even fewer renters and still does not provide guidance to ensure its enforced.

Read the entire article.

Photo Credit: Morning Brew

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The Fed’s Policy Change May Keep Rates Lower for Longer than Expected

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The Federal Reserve is changing its policy with regards to how it quickly it responds to inflation.  Historically, once inflation reached increased by about 2%, the Feds would raise interest rates.  Now, in an effort to support the economy, the central bank is pushing the threshold of inflation beyond the 2% target.

This change, according to an article published by CNBC.com, is a way for the Fed to encourage spending by allowing Americans to continue to borrow money at low rates.  According to professor of Finance and Economics, Laura Veldkamp, “This is meant as a stimulus, as a way of getting people to spend more.”   

By allowing rates to stay lower for a longer period of time, many lenders can pass the low rates on to their consumers.  For example, credit card rates have fallen to 16% on average, personal loans are reporting rates as low as 12.07% and HELOCs have rates below 5%.

As reported in the article, the downside to the change in policy is the effect increased inflation will have on long term bond prices.  The chief financial advisor for Bank Rate, Greg McBride states that these longer term bonds will be more prone to large price declines.  Yet, ““With low inflation the Fed’s focus now, that’s a concern for another day…”

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How are Small Businesses Weathering the Pandemic?

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Many Americans’ lives have been affected by the pandemic, perhaps medically and emotionally but its also reached their social, academic and professional lives.  Those who have seen some of the most financial impact are small business owners.  Many had to close their doors for a period of time due to local restrictions; even after being able to open, business operations had to be significantly changed.   When small business owners were polled back in April 2020, only about 35% of the owners of small businesses were confident they would still be in business in the next year.

According to an article published by CNBC.com, reported by Lori Ioannou, more and more small business owners are feeling more optimistic.  In a more recent poll, 64% of these small business owners felt that they can remain in business, and in fact, many felt they might also be able to increase revenue.  The article goes on to provide details about what factors are allowing these business owners to feel they have the tools to succeed.

The government programs such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and economic injury disaster loans have, as Ionnau states, “given some businesses a life preserver to ride out the economic uncertainty. And the loans have given owners time to pivot and reinvent their business models so they survive the new normal.”  For example, some businesses have begun utilizing technology more readily by being more active online, creating new products as well as growing their direct-to-customer business model.

Consumers have also rallied to support local businesses by choosing to buy locally.  For example, local restaurants have expresses gratitude to patrons who have ordered curbside or take-out food more frequently than in the past and increasing the amount of their tips to show both financial and emotional support.

As time goes on, some businesses will see that closing their doors might be inevitable and some businesses will thrive and succeed due to creative business practices or just by nature of their business and the product. 

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Photo Credit Tim Mossholder

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Amid the Pandemic, Mortgage Rates Set Records

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As residents of the U.S. sort through the many updates on the progress of containing the outbreak of COVID-19 cases, anxiously await news for a vaccine and patiently waiting to find out when life will return to some sense of normal, the U.S. economy fluctuates with the positive and not so encouraging updates.  Most recently, the news of the economic uncertainty due to the pandemic has impacted mortgage rates, yet again.

According to an article published by CNN, mortgage rates recently dropped below 3% for a 30 year mortgage.  This drop marked a 50 year record low for mortgage rates.  As a result, many home buyers, and those that were sitting on the fence debating purchasing a home, have decided that there’s no time like the present to make the move.  The demand for homes has increased, especially since the lower rates has allowed more prospective home buyers to afford homes that might have been just beyond their reach just a few short weeks ago.

However, just as the daily news cycle is filled with promise coupled with concerning medical and economic updates, the good news about rates is wrapped with a warning of what may be on the horizon.  Since the rise in coronavirus cases seems to be surging again, more job layoffs and even job losses could be inevitable.  Obviously, as unemployment rises, home buyers can be hesitant, if not unable, to purchase a home.

As the article quotes Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, things could look up soon, “On the upside, signs of progress toward a coronavirus vaccine give hope that there’s a path to a new normal where health concerns don’t dominate decision making.”  We all hope that comes sooner rather than later.

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How Will Homeowners Be Expected Pay Back Paused Mortgage Payments?

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As American homeowners suffer economic losses due to the global pandemic, mortgage companies allowed their borrowers to pause their mortgage payments, also known as forbearance.  This offers some relief and peace of mind to homeowners struggling to pay their monthly bills due to job loss or a reduction of pay.

However, in recent weeks, incorrect or misinterpreted information has caused some homeowners to panic, believing that once the forbearance period comes to an end, they will be expected to pay their missed mortgage payments back in a lump sum.  An article published by HousingWire.com sets the record straight.

The article, written by Ben Lane, indicates “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each issued a statement Monday, reiterating that borrowers are not required to repay their missed payments all at once when their forbearance period ends.” Additionally, Lane quotes the Federal Housing Agency Director, ‘“During this national health emergency, no one should be worried about losing their home,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said in a statement. “No lump sum is required at the end of a borrower’s forbearance plan for Enterprise-backed mortgages.”’

Its important for borrowers and lenders to understand and communicate the next steps and what will be expected of the borrower once the forbearance period comes to an end.  Many lenders will offer a repayment plan, a payment deferral or a modification of the loan.  The borrower should reach out directly to their lender and discuss the details of these next steps.

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Why is the Number of First Time Home Buyers Declining?

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With reports of continued low mortgage rates, many might assume the housing market would be booming with home sales.  However, it would seem that some other economic factors are affecting potential home buyers’ decisions.

The number of adults planning to purchase a home has dropped 2% since last year, and the number of first time home buyers among the groups looking to purchase a home is down 5%, from 63% in 2018 to 58% this year.  According to an article published by CNBC.com, written by Anne Cusak, a lack of affordable home coupled with worries about the economy and personal economic stability are to blame.

According to Rose Quint, the National Association of Home Builders assistant vice president for survey research, “…potential buyers are held back by the lowest levels of affordability in a decade.”  Many first time home buyers are limited in their budget; as home prices increase, they aren’t necessarily able to keep up.  Since the lower end of the real estate market has seen the fastest price increase, these home buyers are being priced out. 

Even if the home prices are within reach and the mortgage rates continue to stay low, prospective buyers are less than eager to jump in when they feel their personal finances are on shaky ground.  Cusak notes, “Buying a home is an incredibly emotional experience, and potential buyers will often pull back when they have the slightest fear of losing their jobs or losing any income.”

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What Influences Mortgage Rates?

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Keeping up with the ups and downs of mortgage rates can be daunting.  As home owners consider refinancing their home and buyers try to determine the right time to purchase a home and secure a mortgage rate, it can feel like they are aiming at a moving target and aren’t sure when to actually lock in a rate.  It can make many wonder what causes the rates to fluctuate?  The answer is, many factors impact the mortgage rates.

In an article published by Bankrate, Deborah Khearns thoroughly details several of the reasons mortgage rates increase and decrease over time.  As many know, the Federal Reserve can play a roll in mortgage rate changes.  As the article states, “The Federal Reserve doesn’t set mortgage rates but, sometimes, their decisions can indirectly influence them.”

It is probably pretty obvious that the economy and its current conditions influence the mortgage rates.  It may be surprising, however, to learn that it’s a bad economy that actually helps improve mortgage rates for buyers.  As the economy becomes less favorable, investors tend to move toward safer investments like bonds.  According to Greg Mc Bride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, increased number of bond investors results in “…pushing bond prices higher but the yields on those bonds lower.”

The article goes on to discuss the influence of inflation and origination costs as well as the borrower’s financial and credit history and the impact of those on rates.  Read the entire article.

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