Blog Archives

Mortgage Rates Push Into New 2014 Lows

Mortgage rates continued a strong move lower today, benefiting from a global sell-off in risk-related assets.  What’s a risk-related asset?  In this case, it’s a catch-all term for investments that carry greater risk and greater reward, such as stocks and emerging market currencies.  When risk-assets get trounced, bond markets are often one of the safe-haven beneficiaries, and stronger bond markets mean lower mortgage rates.

In the current case, and indeed in most cases where there is a large tidal exchange across the risk spectrum, mortgage rates aren’t able to fall as quickly as more direct beneficiaries like Treasuries.  Still, they’re falling.  Most of the improvement has been in the form of lower closing costs for the same interest rates quoted yesterday, but some borrowers may be an eighth of a point lower today.  4.5% remains the most prevalently quoted conforming 30yr fixed rate for ideal scenarios (best-execution), but 4.375% is VERY close at several lenders.  When adjusted for day to day changes in closing costs, rates fell an equivalent of 0.03-0.04% today.

While unexpected, the improvement in rates is certainly welcome.  The question is whether or not it will carry over into next week.  The other question is how much markets will even be concerned with what had been shaping up to be a big FOMC Announcement on Wednesday.  If global markets continue in this same vein next week, the momentum could easily overshadow the Fed.  The counterpoint and the risk is that such episodes of global risk-aversion and emerging market panic are not uncommon.  They happen a few times a year.  Sometimes the Eurozone crisis happens and sometimes things blow over.  On the occasions where things blow over, rates tend to snap back higher fairly quickly.


Mortgage Rates Slide Sideways Ahead of Important Fed Announcement

Mortgage rates were unchanged today on average, and thus remain near recent highs with 4.625% the most prevalently quoted rate for ideal, conforming 30yr Fixed scenarios  (best-execution).  Some lenders are well-enough priced that 4.5% is available, but it should be noted that most lenders currently have big buydowns to move lower in rate right now (meaning it can cost nearly 1% of the loan amount to drop the rate by .125%).


The sideways movement into the end of the week is consistent with our sense of what’s been happening in the rate world since last Friday’s big jobs report.  That data was tremendously important because, had it been strong enough, it could have made a more compelling case that the Fed would begin reducing the amounts of the Treasuries and Mortgage-Backed-Securities (which directly affect mortgage rates) it currently buys.


While markets generally seem much more prepared for so-called “tapering” than they were in June, whenever it finally happens, it will still mark the turning of a corner on the path to higher rates.  That would likely have quite a negative affect on rates were it to happen in December (as some feel it might) versus the consensus view of March 2014.


But the jobs data wasn’t outrageously stronger than expected–certainly not enough to suggest that December tapering is any sort of guarantee.  Heading into that report, rates were in a position to absorb stronger numbers still, and thus embarked on a short relief rally.  That rally ran out of steam on Wednesday and rates have proceeded to settle down right between the highs that preceded last Friday’s jobs numbers and Tuesday’s ‘relief rally lows.’


As has been the case ever since the jobs report (but increasingly clearly as the week has progressed), the next big move for rates–and perhaps the only big move left in 2013, is likely to be seen after next Wednesday’s FOMC Announcement.

New York Purchase Mortgages Top 60 percent in October

Mortgage loan originations for the purpose of purchasing topped 60 percent in October Ellie Mae said on Wednesday, for the first time since the company began publishing its Origination Insight Report.  Quite naturally the refinancing share was below 40 percent for the first time as well.


Purchase mortgages represented 61 percent of all mortgages originated during the month compared to 58 percent in September and 31 percent in October 2012.  Refinancing dropped to 39 percent from 41 percent the previous month and 68 percent a year earlier.  Ellie Mae first began tracking this data in August 2011.


Sixty-eight percent of originations were conventional mortgages, down from 70 percent in September and 74 percent in October 2011 while FHA-backed mortgages remained at the 19 percent level where it has been for five of the last six months and where is stood in October 2012 as well.


The time to close a loan rose slightly for all mortgages, from 42 days in September to 45 days in October.  The time to close was up 3 percentage points for both purchase and refinance mortgages which increased to 46 and 43 days respectively.


The pull-through rate, that is the percentage of applications which close as loans, fell slightly from 52.3 percent in September to 51.4 percent in October.  The closing rate for purchase loans was 56.9 percent, down from 59.6 percent and for refis it was 44.6 percent compared to 45.2 percent.


Underwriting standards seem to be easing.  Ellie Mae said that 28 percent of closed loans had an average FICO score of less than 700 compared to 16 percent one year earlier.  The average loan-to-value ratio (LTV) has increased to 81 percent from 78 percent in October 2012 while the average FICO score is down to 732 from 750.  The debt-to-income ratio is now at 25/38 instead of 23/34.


Ellie Mae draws its data from a sampling of loan applications that flow thought its proprietary software and loan network.  That volume represents more than 20 percent of all U.S. loan originations.

Mortgage Rates Much Lower After Debt Deal

Mortgage rates fell significantly today, returning in line with the lowest levels seen in recent weeks for some lenders.  Not every lender experienced the improvement in the same way, however, with some still not back to last week’s best offerings.  Whatever the case, the average top-tier Conforming 30yr fixed rate is back to 4.25% .

Despite our analysis suggesting rates didn’t care about fiscal drama as much as they cared about economic data, and despite rates making it right back to pre-shutdown levels, the past week had seen them move higher than they otherwise might if they truly didn’t care about the fiscal drama.  And now they’ve moved significantly lower due to the fiscal drama subsiding, one might wonder what gives.


Rates actually did quite a fine job of holding steady during the first part of the shutdown, and the sense that markets were more concerned with economic data and Fed policy was reinforced.  Indeed, the shutdown itself was of little concern for rates.  The approach of the debt ceiling, however, had a domino effect that ended up doing some damage.


To understand the damage, we need to understand something that rarely comes into play in a discussion of mortgage rates but is always operating silently behind the scenes: the short term funding market.  This simply refers to the shortest term borrowing and lending that takes place in massive quantities each day in financial markets.  These are the transactions that have shorter time windows than the 2yr Treasury notes, and range all the way down to “overnight” maturities.


This is the lifeblood of all other lending, and it never usually makes the news because it’s never stirring the pot in the same way it just did.  Of course market participants assumed that the risk of a default would take a toll on these short term funding lines, but the toll ended up being much bigger than expected.  If we consider 1-month Treasury bills, for example, the very worst of the 2011 budget battle brought those yields to 0.25%.  By comparison, Tuesday night saw them hit 0.50%.


It was by far the biggest spike in short term funding costs we’ve seen since the onset of the Financial Crisis and it dealt an unexpected blow to the longer term debt market.  That means that securities such as the 10yr Treasury and the Mortgage-backed-securities (MBS) that dictate mortgage rates were noticeably affected.  Were it not for this short term debt market surprise, longer term rates like mortgages may well have not budged much at all.


Now that the debt deal has been reached, those short term debt markets have thawed quickly, and mortgage rates have been able to correct accordingly.  In addition to that, Fed speakers have been unified in suggesting that this fiscal uncertainty and the unknown impact on the economy from the shutdown likely means that any decrease in Fed asset purchases is on hold for the next few meetings (meaning tapering gets pushed into 2014).  This only adds to the momentum lower in rates, making the snap back to the best recent levels especially quick.

SONYMA Mortgages Definitions

Funds that can be verified as the borrower’s own, the source of which can be: (a) monies from borrower’s checking or savings account, or other similar time deposit account, which have been on deposit in the account for at least 2 months prior to loan application, (b) cash up to $1,000, (c) cash deposit towards property purchase, and (d) the market value of the lot owned by borrower, exclusive of any liens, on which the SONYMA financed home was or will be constructed, or the purchase price of the lot if it was purchased in the past 2 years, whichever is less. Other sources may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Closing Costs
Expenses (over and above the price of the property) incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include, but are not limited to, fees charged by lenders, attorney fees, taxes, insurance premiums (e.g. flood insurance, hazard insurance, PMI), escrow charges, title insurance costs and survey costs. Lenders or realtors can often provide estimates of closing costs to prospective home buyers.

Down payment
The part of the purchase price of a property that the buyer pays in cash and does not finance with a mortgage.

Existing Housing
A property that has been previously occupied as a residence.

First-Time Home Buyer
A person who (i) has not had any ownership interest in his/her primary residence at any time during the three years prior to the date of making an application for a SONYMA mortgage loan; and, (ii) at the time of making the loan application to SONYMA, does not own a vacation or investment home. This definition includes residences owned in the United States and abroad.

Home Buyer Education
A course given by a SONYMA approved organization (usually a PMI company) in which participants learn budgeting techniques relevant to home owners. This is required for all loans with LTVs over 95% or down payments less than 5%. It is also required for all applicants applying for the Achieving The Dream and Remodel New York Programs.

Household Income
The total combined income of all persons who are age 18 or older and who are expected to live in the SONYMA financed property regardless of whether they have signed or will sign the mortgage application.

Housing Expense
The monthly costs associated with a mortgage loan, specifically: Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (PITI). Monthly costs also include maintenance fees, where applicable (e.g. condominiums, cooperatives, Planned Unit Developments, or Homeowners Associations).

Income Limit
SONYMA finances mortgage loans for persons with low or moderate incomes. The maximum incomes of persons eligible to receive SONYMA financed mortgage loans are subject to the requirements of federal and state law. The maximum income allowable may vary by SONYMA program, region of the state, and household size. Click here for current income limits.

Loan to Value
The relationship between the requested mortgage amount and the appraised value, or, sales price (whichever is lower) of the property. For example, a home valued and priced at $100,000 on which there is an $80,000 mortgage has an LTV of 80 percent.

Lock-In Fee
A fee equal to 1% of the requested loan amount, which is paid to the lender by the borrower within 14 days of loan reservation to hold (“lock”) a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. In SONYMA programs the fee is non-refundable unless the mortgage application is denied by the Participating Lender or SONYMA.

Long-Term Lock-In
Type of interest rate lock that may only be used for properties under construction or rehabilitation as of the SONYMA loan application date. The lock-in period is 240 days from the application date.

Mortgage Servicer
The mortgage company that services your SONYMA loan after closing. All mortgage payments and inquiries should be made directly to the mortgage servicer.

Newly Constructed Housing
A property that has not been previously used for residential purposes.

One-Family Home
A building designed for occupancy by one family, which includes a condominium unit, cooperative unit, town home, planned unit development (PUD) unit, or factory-made housing permanently attached to real property.

Origination Fee
A fee that is paid by the borrower to compensate the Participating Lender for assisting the borrower to obtain a SONYMA mortgage loan.

Participating Lender
A lending institution that has been approved by SONYMA to originate, close and sell mortgage loans to SONYMA. Participating Lenders are familiar with SONYMA loan programs and requirements. Click here for a list of participating lenders.

Payment Reserves
Funds required by some lenders to be retained in a borrower’s bank account after loan closing in an amount equal to a specific number of monthly mortgage payments.

One point equals 1% of the mortgage loan amount. Fees associated with mortgage loans are often calculated in points.

Pool Insurance
Mortgage insurance paid for by SONYMA that is required for all loans which provides protection in the event of a loss resulting from a borrower default.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
Mortgage insurance paid for by the borrower that SONYMA requires for all loans where the Loan to Value exceeds 80%. PMI protects the Participating Lender and SONYMA in the event of a loss resulting from borrower default.

Purchase Price Limits
SONYMA provides mortgage loans for moderately priced homes. The maximum sale price of homes eligible for SONYMA financed mortgage loans is subject to the requirements of federal and state law. The maximum sale price allowable may vary by SONYMA program, region of the state, and size of the home. Click here for current purchase price limits.

Seller Concession
An agreement specifically stated in the sales contract between the seller of the property and the buyer of the property in which the seller commits to pay a specific portion of the buyer’s closing costs. SONYMA limits the amount of Seller Concessions allowed.

Short-Term Lock-In
Type of interest rate lock that must be used for all Existing Housing and completed new construction or rehabilitation properties. The SONYMA rate lock-in period is 100 days from the application date.

Target Area
An entire census tract or portion thereof which has been designated by the federal government as economically distressed. For borrowers who purchase in these areas, in accordance with federal law, SONYMA waives the First-Time Home Buyer requirement, applies higher income and purchase price limits, and will finance two-family homes that are less than 5 years old.

Total Monthly Expense
Expected monthly expenses of the borrower including, but not limited to, the Housing Expense, car lease payments, credit card payments, and, any installment debt with more than 10 monthly payments remaining (i.e., personal loans, car loans, student loans, 401K or pension loans, etc.).

Underwriting Ratios
The maximum debt burdens allowable to applicants for mortgage loans expressed as two separate ratios – Housing Expense to gross monthly income and Total Monthly Expense to gross monthly income. SONYMA requires that the Housing Expense not exceed 33% of the borrower’s gross monthly income, and that the Total Monthly Expense not exceed 38% of the borrower’s gross monthly income. These percentages are increased to 40% and 45%, respectively, for applicants having a down payment of 3% or more.

Value of the Property
The lower of the purchase price being paid for the property or the property’s market value as established by a qualified property appraiser.

Interest Rates and Loan Pricing




Lenders us risk-based pricing to determine the interest rate and discount points that they charge. This disclosure explains the basics of risk-based pricing and gives you notice of lenders practices and procedures in determining the interest rate and costs for lenders mortgage loan.

What is Risk-Based Pricing?
Risk-based pricing is a system that evaluates the risk factors of lenders mortgage application and credit profile and adjusts the interest rate and discount points up or down based on this risk evaluation.

What Factors Can Affect My Loan Pricing?
Various factors interact to adjust lenders loan pricing. The major factors include:

Credit Profile: They will obtain a credit report that shows the amount of debt you have outstanding and how you have historically paid your debt and obligations. The credit report will also contain a “credit score” that ranks lenders credit history. Credit scores look at five main kinds of credit information, namely: payment history; amount; length of credit history; new credit; and types of credit in use. Generally, if you have had any history of nonpayment or late payments on any loans or debt, this may lower your credit score and increase lenders interest rate and costs. People with high credit scores consistently: pay their debts on time, keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving loans; and apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.

Property: The type of property you are mortgaging also impacts lenders loan pricing. For example, investment property, condominiums or multifamily housing are usually considered to have a higher risk to lenders than single-family detached homes. The value of the property (usually determined by an appraisal) as compared to the amount you wish to borrow (the “loan-to-value ratio” or “LTV”) also impacts lenders loan price. The higher the LTV, the higher the interest rate and costs. LTV’s over 80% also usually require mortgage insurance. The price of mortgage insurance may vary based on lenders credit profile.

Income/Debt: The amount of lenders mortgage payments and total debt payments as compared to lenders income, (“debt-to-income ratios”) may also impact lenders loan cost. The higher lenders debt-to-income ratio, the higher lenders risk, and so the higher the interest rate and fees.

Other Factors: Other factors may also affect lenders risk, and lenders interest rate and origination charge. These factors include, but are not limited to: previous bankruptcies, foreclosures or unpaid judgments; and the type of loan product applied for, such as adjustable rate versus fixed rate, or cash out refinance versus rate and term refinance.

How And When Is My Price Determined?
Lenders price is determined by evaluating all the risk factors that are involved in lenders loan, and determining where you fit into lenders risk/price range.

They will give you an estimate of lenders risk-based pricing after they have done an initial evaluation of lenders credit history and a review of lenders proposed property.

REMEMBER, that lenders risk-based pricing may change from this initial estimate if any of the risk factors discussed above change – for example, if the appraised value of the property is determined to be different than the value used for lenders initial estimate or if your credit profile changes from the time of the initial estimate and closing.

If you choose to “lock” a rate range prior to the final risk assessment, you will be locked for the interest rate range available at that time. Lenders actual price will be established based on where lenders final risk level fits into that particular interest rate range. Lenders final risk level is determined at time of closing, when there are no further changes to lenders credit profile or loan factors.


Is There a Way to Obtain a Lower Interest Rate?
If you are not in the lowest price bracket available, you may be able to obtain a lower price if you are able to lower lenders risk. You may accomplish this in various ways, such as: by putting more money down and lowering the LTV; finding a co-signer with additional income to support the loan; clearing inaccurate items on lenders credit report; paying off other debt to lower your debt-to-income ratio; changing from a cash-out refinance to rate and term refinance; or changing the term on the loan.


Pre-Qualifications vs. Pre-Approvals When Purchasing a Home

The first thing a home shopper should do PRIOR to starting a serious home search is to look at mortgage options.  An experienced realtor will encourage buyers to speak with a lender and get “pre-approved.”  This benefits all parties involved by ensuring that prospective buyers can actually qualify for a mortgage on the homes they’re interested in.  Failure to do so WILL cause frustration and disappointment for any agent or buyer who naively regards today’s stringent mortgage process as a minor detail to be addressed after a sales contract is accepted.  No one likes surprises during the purchase process!
Two terms that are often (and incorrectly) used interchangeably are “pre-qualified” and “pre-approved”.  While their exact meanings will vary by lender, in most cases a pre-qualification is far less desirable and less clearly defined.
A Pre-Qualification typically means a buyer has spoken with a lender (who may or may not have pulled a credit report) and verbally discussed employment, liabilities, payment histories, and assets.  Actual verification of assets, income, and credit may not occur with a pre-qualification, and an automated underwriting system (Desktop Underwriter or Loan Prospector in most cases) likely has not been run.  While better than nothing, Pre-Qualification remains entirely dependent on a far more thorough process of verification and examination of a borrower’s credit, assets, and income.  At best, it’s a “probably.”
A true Pre-Approval, on the other hand, entails a strict review of the client’s credit, down payment capacity, income, and asset documentation.  Credit reports are thoroughly dissected, rather than just credit scores verified.  Veteran loan officers run prospective buyers though underwriting engines if they have any doubts concerning debt ratios, derogatory credit items, or employment history/income verification.  Once the system returns an approval, it too needs to be read in detail, as it will list specific requirements for final loan approval.  A lender who bases his pre-approval on mere credit scores and underwriting engine approval without fully examining it, risks his reputation and the satisfaction of the other parties involved.
Unfortunately, the ambiguity between Pre-Approvals and Pre-Qualifications can cause mismanaged expectations.  For example, a client that came to me recently, saying he was pre-approved with another lender, and that his salary was $X/yr.  He had already identified a home and written a sales offer.  His debt ratios were tight, but, based on the information he provided, he met Fannie Mae’s requirements.  Once his W2, paystubs, and tax returns were received, it became apparent that his “salary” included a number of incentives and other non-guaranteed items.  When I said we’d need to verify that the extra income was likely to continue with his employer, his comment was “the other loan officer didn’t ask me to break my income down.”  He also had two liabilities on his credit report that didn’t show monthly payments, and needed to be determined.  When asked about those, he remarked that the prior lender hadn’t mentioned them. Ideally, these issues are caught early enough in the process to address them, if not; they can result in extra processing time that delays closing.
If all parties involved are aware of the distinction, it helps everyone play their role to the best of their ability.  The listing agent who calls the mortgage originator to ask if the buyer’s income and asset docs have been examined clearly understands the differences between pre-qualifications and pre-approvals.  Conversely, the originator who contacts the realtor can better manage expectations by clearly defining their pre-qualification or pre-approval process.  Even clients, armed with this information, can request a thorough pre-approval rather than a cursory pre-qualification, and play a role in ensuring the best possible handling of their transaction.