steven.bray

May 212019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Mortgage rates have moved very little this month, and it still seems like their next move is tied to the trade war. The announcement of new tariffs on Chinese goods created a nice little rally that brought rates down close to their lows for the year. But lately, it seems like every negative headline has been met with a conciliatory one, which has kept rates stable.

There is other news out there, and absent the trade headlines, it might move rates. Probably the most significant is the action in the Middle East. A new fighting war would roil markets everywhere and lead to lower rates.

Europe also has current crises of note. Great Britain still has a Brexit problem – deciding how it’s going to leave the European Union. Italy, on the other hand, just thumbed its nose at European Union austerity rules, and pundits once again are talking about the survivability of the EU.

In the US, we’re watching for economic data that indicates something other than a steady as she goes economy. The next big reports aren’t due for a couple weeks, culminating in the May jobs report due on Jun 7th. Analysts aren’t predicting any surprises based on recent economic activity.

And that brings us back to the trade war. Barring something extraordinary happening elsewhere in the world, I think the fate of interest rates depends on the success or failure of trade talks. Resolution would remove the biggest uncertainty for the economy and almost certainly would lead to higher rates.

May 132019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Some pundits have suggested we’re staring at the beginnings of a new recession fueled by the housing market. Not so, says Ralph DeFranco, Global Chief Economist for Arch Capital Services. He says current housing trends bare no resemblance to conditions that existed prior to the Great Recession.

A recession is inevitable at some point in the future, but DeFranco says it should be less severe for the housing market than the 2008 recession due to three factors:

  • He estimates the current market is underbuilt by 1 million homes;
  • Homebuyers are more cautious; and
  • The quality of loans originated since the Great Recession is much higher.

Conditions were exactly opposite before the Great Recession.

DeFranco also noted that big price drops during recessions are the exception rather than the norm. In the five recessions since 1975, home values have declined only once. Moreover, the current housing inventory shortage likely would soften the effects of a recession on the housing market.

May 082019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

With all the ink spent on affordability in the last year, I found a recent study by Corelogic provided some novel insights. It found that housing costs in Austin for renters rose almost twice as fast as those for homeowners.

The study period was Dec 2005 to Dec 2018, so it roughly covers one full economic cycle. Corelogic compared its rental index, which analyzes the same rental properties over time, to a “typical mortgage payment,” which it calculates assuming a 30-year fixed mortgage with a 20% down payment.

In Austin, the rental index rose more than 60% over the study period while the typical mortgage payment rose about 35%. The difference between the two in Dallas and Houston wasn’t as large, but the rental index still rose faster. A part of this difference is attributable to the fact that mortgage rates in 2005 were a point and a half higher than they were last Dec.

And this reinforces another interesting point highlighted by Corelogic. Renters are almost twice as likely to be “cost burdened,” meaning 30% or more of their income goes towards housing expenses. Forty-six percent of renters were cost-burdened in 2017 as opposed to about 27% of homeowners. Moreover, the share is down 10 points for homeowners in the last 10 years whereas it’s held steady for renters. This highlights the fact that homeowners can leverage the market through refinancing to lower their housing costs whereas renters’ only recourse is to move to a less expensive (and probably lower quality) rental.

Here is a link to the study results.

May 072019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Last week’s two big ticket items, the Federal Reserve meeting and the jobs report, lived up to their billing. The Fed didn’t change policy, nor did the post-meeting announcement really make any waves. It was Fed head Powell, at his post-meeting press conference, who got things moving. He acknowledged that foreign economies look a little stronger than earlier in the year and was equivocal when asked whether the next rate move would be a cut or a hike. (Investors have been hoping for a cut.) Interest rates quickly bounced higher.

Then, we got the jobs report on Fri. The headline numbers were great: a solid beat on jobs created and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. However, wage growth was tepid, reinforcing concerns about falling inflation (which tends to depress rates). On top of that, the services sector report missed expectations. Interest rates edged down again, and it looked like we’d be riding the range a while longer.

This week set up to be rather quiet until Friday’s inflation report – until the Chinese pulled away from trade negotiations. Markets have been hopeful for a trade deal, so the president’s threat to impose new tariffs created waves of uncertainty. Investors responded to that by buying bonds, which pushed rates down.

So, where do we go from here? Given that multiple recent economic reports have agreed about receding inflation, it’s unlikely Friday’s Consumer Price Index is going to have much effect on rates. If the index surprisingly doesn’t agree with the other reports, rates may tick up a bit.

However, I suspect rates will rise or fall based on the trade talks. A further breakdown is bound to make investors nervous about a full blown trade war, leading to lower rates.

FHA crack down on down payment assistance

 Loan Guidelines, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on FHA crack down on down payment assistance
Apr 292019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

One of a myriad of causes of the housing collapse during the Great Recession was the absence of “skin-in-the-game.” Borrowers used no-money down loans to purchase homes, then walked away from those homes when the economy went sour. Given that they had put none of their savings into the homes, walking away was easier.

One way to achieve no-money down during that time was to use seller-provided down payment assistance with an FHA loan. The seller provided the necessary 3.5% down payment and usually boosted the home’s sale price a little to make up for it. Congress outlawed this practice in 2008, mandating that no party with a financial interest in the home sale – including the seller, the agents, and the lender – could provide the homebuyer’s down payment funds. However, the law allowed governmental programs to continue providing down payment assistance.

Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and an entrepreneurial fellow in UT partnered with the Paiutes tribal government to create a fund, the Chenoa Fund, that lenders could use for down payment assistance. Whereas government down payment programs target homebuyers in the governmental jurisdictions, the Chenoa Fund was available nationwide, and it made a profit on the transactions.

Borrowers in down payment assistance programs become delinquent about twice as often as those who use their own funds, and the Feds see these programs as an increasing risk to the FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, which backstops FHA mortgages.

Last week, HUD published new guidelines that clarify which entities can provide down payment assistance. The guidelines seem to target the Chenoa Fund, and it will be interesting to see how it responds.

But that still leaves the bigger issue of higher default rates for down payment assisted loans unaddressed. Many of these programs offer the assistance in exchange for higher-than-market interest rates, which stretch a homebuyer’s ability to repay the mortgage. In addition, they perpetuate the problem Congress thought it had addressed in 2008 – homeowners with no skin in the game.

FHA changes aim to deny riskier borrowers

 Loan Guidelines, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on FHA changes aim to deny riskier borrowers
Apr 272019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Late last month, FHA made some changes to its automated underwriting system that may prevent as many as 50,000 potential borrowers from qualifying for an FHA loan. FHA said the changes are meant to limit exposure of its insurance fund from higher risk situations.

According to the agency’s annual report to Congress, it’s seeing a concentration of mortgages with high debt-to-income ratios and low credit scores. It also reported a 60% increase in cash-out refinances. (This isn’t an issue in TX as TX homeowners cannot take cash out using an FHA loan.)

An FHA official told The Wall Street Journal that the system changes will affect 40,000 to 50,000 loans each year, which is 4 to 5% of all loans FHA insures.

The changes will flag loans with a combination of higher debt-to-income ratios and lower credit scores for “manual underwriting,” which means underwriting performed by a human being. Unfortunately for borrowers, manual underwriting also means more stringent loan guidelines, and many of those who qualified before the system changes no longer will qualify.

Rate update: Stuck in the middle again

 Interest Rates, Real Estate Market  Comments Off on Rate update: Stuck in the middle again
Apr 122019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

After a quick move lower following last month’s Federal Reserve meeting, mortgage rates have moderated a bit. Concerns of a global recession prompted the move lower, and the Fed seemed to add fuel to that concern with the changes to its policy stance, announcing what is in a sense version 5 of quantitative easing, which has helped keep rates low for years.

Rates rebounded a bit when investors realized the US economy certainly isn’t circling the drain. We’ve had two strong jobs reports, and retail sales rebounded after the government shutdown. The data isn’t as strong as it was last year, but it certainly doesn’t seem to indicate an imminent recession.

Overseas is another story. At its meeting this week, the head of the European Central Bank all but predicted a recession in Europe, and European economic data continues to weaken. Britain still hasn’t figured out how it’s going to leave the European Union, which breeds uncertainty, a close friend of low interest rates. And China’s economy also is slowing, and analysts worry that a resolution to the trade dispute may not be enough to stop the slide.

So, that’s the bad news – the news that’s pressuring rates lower. But investors see a US economy that seems to be chugging along. Thus, rates are stuck in the middle – not sure which force is going to be stronger. And they’re liable to stay that way until new headlines tip the scales.

Among the predictable headlines I’m watching right now are the Chinese trade talks and inflation data. I still believe a good trade deal penned in the next couple months will put some upward pressure on rates. However, it has to happen before the Chinese economy slips too far. On the inflation front, recent reports show inflation sliding lower again, which makes the Fed nervous. Receding inflation should put downward pressure on rates.

No need to fear another recession

 Real Estate Market  Comments Off on No need to fear another recession
Mar 252019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

What I call the “recession whisperers” have been active of late, which may be making you nervous about the housing market. Whether you’re a homeowner now or want to be one in the future, the pain associated with falling home prices probably is fresh in your mind given what happened during the Great Recession ten years ago.

According to Ralph Mclaughlin at Corelogic, that worry may be for naught. The housing market generally does pretty well during a recession. Of the last five recessions, three saw home prices continue to rise. Of the other two, prices dipped only 1.9% in 1991, but they fell almost 20% in the Great Recession, and that’s a very recent memory.

However, Mclaughlin cites two other statistics that suggest the housing market is well-positioned to weather any downturn. First, housing inventory is close to a record low. Based on US Census data, the nation has only 15.7 housing units per 1000 households. This compares to almost 35 units per 1000 just before the Great Recession. Thus, even in the event of another recession, it’s unlikely we’d have a glut of unsold homes as we did ten years ago.

Second, demographic factors are favorable for continued home price growth. Currently, 46% of the US population is under age 35, and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates Millennial households will increase by 32 million in the next twenty years. That points to a lot of demand for housing.

Housing index focused on home prices

 Real Estate Market, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Housing index focused on home prices
Mar 192019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Fannie Mae’s housing index was down slightly last month, continuing a slow deterioration of the index that began last year. It’s down 1.5 points since last Feb. While consumers still express strong confidence about their personal finances, their confidence in the housing market is slipping.

The overwhelming majority of respondents still expect their personal financial situation to stay the same or improve in the next year, and a 14-point majority thinks the economy is on the right track. Those percentages have changed little over the last year.

What has changed is the share of respondents who think it’s a good time to buy or sell a home. The “good-time-to-sell” component is down 6 points from last year and down 17 points from its peak last Jun. This may be a reflection of consumer’s softening expectations about home price growth. While a net 33% still expect prices to rise in the next 12 months, that’s down 19 points from the peak last year.

The “good-time-buy” component is down 7 points from last Feb, and has been declining steadily since summer of 2013. Interestingly, this also may be due to rising home prices as it’s the most frequently cited concern of potential homebuyers.

The positive takeaway is that as declining expectations for higher home prices sink in, potential homebuyers may begin to view buying a home as an affordable option again. Consumers still expect rents to rise almost twice as fast as home prices over the coming year.

Link to the full report.

Homebuyer beware of authorized user accounts

 Credit Scoring, Loan Guidelines  Comments Off on Homebuyer beware of authorized user accounts
Mar 142019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

The authorized-user account: It’s been a trick folks with weak credit histories have used for a long time to improve their credit scores. Mortgage lenders have grown wise to this trick, and they’re finally clamping down on its use.

An authorized-user account is an account on which a consumer has signing privileges, but the consumer’s credit history wasn’t used to open it. For example, a parent might allow a child to be an authorized-user on one of the parent’s credit cards to help the child establish credit.

A few years back, credit repair companies started promoting this as a way for folks with weak credit to quickly improve their credit scores. Someone with strong credit would allow the consumer with weak credit to sign on an account, even if the two individuals had no other relationship. Unfortunately for creditors, the score improvement didn’t reflect the consumer’s true credit risk.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan guidelines now instruct lenders to carefully review loan applications for which a borrower has an authorized-user account. The intent is to weed out potential borrowers who used an unrelated individual’s strong credit to try to improve their chances for loan approval.

According to the guidelines, it’s acceptable for a borrower to be an authorized-user on an account belonging to another borrower on the loan, with the borrower’s spouse, or an account on which the borrower makes the payments.

If these situations don’t apply, the guidelines instruct lenders to review the borrower’s credit to make sure an authorized-user account didn’t have a significant impact on the borrower’s credit scores. If the borrower otherwise has weak or little credit, it’s possible the borrower’s loan request will be denied.