HUD CHARGES MASSACHUSETTS APARTMENT BUILDING OWNER WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging the owner of a 24-unit apartment building in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with housing discrimination for denying units to families that have children. HUD’s charge alleges that Nilma Fichera, who owns and manages New York-based N.A.G. Realty, LLC, violated the Fair Housing Act when she refused to show or rent apartments to families with children because she could not certify that the building was free of lead-based paint.

HUD, MAYOR BING ANNOUNCE "TRANSITION PLAN" TO RETURN DETROIT HOUSING COMMISSION TO LOCAL CONTROL

DETROIT -U.S. Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Sandra B. Henriquez today joined Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to announce a transition plan to return the Detroit Housing Commission to local control. HUD assumed control of the agency in 2005.

Mortgage Rates Sideways Ahead of Wednesdays Important Events

Mortgages Rates are steady to slightly improved today after rising for the first time in a month yesterday.  Although rates change slightly every day, those changes are usually small enough as to only effect the closing costs associated with a particular rate.  Because of this, we track “Best-Execution” as the actual interest rate benchmark, and we talked about it in significant detail yesterday (READ MORE).  So although we are able to report that the rate environment is slightly improved today, those improvements have been mostly relegated to minor decreases in borrowing costs for what will likely be the same rate you would have been quoted yesterday. 

Underlying markets have been fairly equivocal for the past two days with a majority of the damage to mortgage rates having occurred with last week’s market movements that lenders more fully priced into rate sheets yesterday.  Stocks, Bonds, and MBS (the “mortgage-backed-securities” that most directly influence mortgage rates) are all very close to where they were last night, seemingly in preparation and anticipation of several important events tomorrow. These include the FOMC Statement (Fed “rate decision,” although it’s the text of the announcement that is important as no change is expected to the discount rate), the first-ever release of FOMC members forecasts, a post-announcement press conference from Ben Bernanke, as well as the 5yr Treasury Note auction. 

Tomorrow’s events, taken in conjunction with tonight’s State of The Union address presents quite a bit for mortgage markets to digest.  The speech tonight may contain mention of new housing-related initiatives (some have suggested), and similar suggestions have been made about tomorrow’s FOMC Announcement (which would be a MUCH bigger deal as far as influencing mortgage markets).  Conversely, it’s possible that some recent levity for MBS vs Treasuries is due to the EXPECTATION that the Fed will add some extra MBS-Specific quantitative easing in the near future, meaning that rates could face some added pressure if MBS are NOT specifically mentioned, although that’s not likely to cause sufficient movement tomorrow for Best-Execution to rise.  Whatever happens tomorrow, it’s a high-risk set of events that could push rates higher OR lower, but we’ll hopefully come away from it with a clearer sense of whether or not rates will make it back down to a 3.875% Best-Execution any time soon.

Today’s BEST-EXECUTION Rates

  • 30YR FIXED –  4.0%, 3.875% still a contender
  • FHA/VA -3.75%
  • 15 YEAR FIXED –  3.375%
  • 5 YEAR ARMS –  2.625-3.25% depending on the lender

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations

  • Rates and costs continue to operate near all time best levels
  • Current levels have experienced increasing resistance in improving much from here
  • There are technical reasons for that as well as fundamental reasons
  • Lenders tend to get busier when rates are in this “high 3’s” level
    and can throttle their inbound volume by raising rates or costs.
  • While we don’t necessarily think rates are destined to go higher,
    given the above facts, there seems to be more risk than reward regarding
    floating
  • But that will always be the case when rates
    operating near historic lows

…(read more)

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Mr. President, it’s Time for a National Housing Policy

Please Mr. President, enough with the one-off responses, it’s time for a National Housing Policy.

The only thing more predictable than the fact that the President will deliver to Congress a State of the Union Address each year is the speculation that precedes it regarding what “Big” announcements the President’s speech will contain.

This year is no different, and a great deal of current speculation surrounds the topic of housing and whether the President’s speech will include some grand proposal intended to relieve those American homeowners who continue to suffer under the weight of a housing economy that remains stuck in neutral.

One plan getting a great deal of attention would involve the government granting debt forgiveness to borrowers whose mortgages are underwater, meaning that the amount currently owed by them on their mortgage exceeds the current value of their home.

To date, the Federal Finance Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – the primary regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – has resisted calls from Congress to approve principal forgiveness. In a report circulating today, we now understand why. According to that report, the cost of such a plan to Fannie and Freddie could well exceed $100 Billion! That $100 Billion would be in addition to the $151 Billion already owed by the two enterprises to the US Treasury. And to be clear, that means owed to US taxpayers.

Hopefully, current speculation is wrong and the President’s address includes no such proposal. Its not that we don’t sympathize with underwater homeowners, we most certainly do. We too look forward to the day when the American housing economy is once again growing and functioning well – and by extension, when the challenges facing homeowners are far less. When that day arrives, that will be a sure sign that the American economy generally has returned to a healthy condition.

Our objection is broader and goes to the fact that since 2009 the policy response to the housing crisis by the Administration has involved one tactical reaction after another – or as we have said before … “a series of one-off reactions …” and, unfortunately, little more.

And while certain tactical reactions were appropriate and even required in 2009 and even into 2010, the time is long passed for the development and introduction of a comprehensive National Housing Policy. Such a policy would lay out in clear terms the goals to be achieved through the Nation’s support of housing; the economic costs and benefits of such a policy; as well as the anticipated intangible benefits of such a policy. Finally, such a plan would identify the likely costs and risks of the failure to implement such a plan.

With such a plan in place (or at least proposed), the uncertainty that today plagues this industry would begin to lift and Congressional policy makers, regulators and business leaders alike would be better equipped to address the important considerations that must still be resolved if we hope to develop an enduring solution to the Nation’s housing crisis.

And for those who would ask, “Why should a housing policy be a priority?”, consider the following written in 2003 – perhaps the last time we had a legitimate National Housing Policy in this great Nation – by the Millennial Housing Commission:

“… housing matters. It represents the single largest expenditure for most American families and the single largest source of wealth for most homeowners. The development of housing has a major impact on the national economy and the economic growth and health of regions and communities. Housing is inextricably linked to access to jobs and healthy communities and the social behavior of the families who occupy it. The failure to achieve adequate housing leads to significant societal costs.”

Until these sort of deliberations and debate occur and a National Housing Policy is in place, it is impossible to know what we as taxpayers get (and give up) for another $100 Billion spent in this manner in support of the housing crisis.

It seems to us, that the time to answer the important question: “What do we get?” … before we give more … is long overdue.

…(read more)

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Best-Execution Mortgage Rates Rise After Extended Period of Stability

For the first time in over a month, the Best-Execution rate for 30yr fixed mortgages rose from a rounded average of 3.875% to 4.00% today.  The underlying borrowing costs associated with 3.875% didn’t rise by a significantly painful amount, but the small increases across the board, combined with one huge move by a huge lender, was enough to bring the average rate closer to 4.0% than 3.875%.   

You may well wonder what the heck this all means.  So we’ll go into more detail tonight for enquiring minds.  Our methodology for determining daily Mortgage Rates
is somewhat complex, and involves an objective component based on lenders raw prices as well as subjective impression from our network of originators.  We look at the rate sheet offerings from most major lenders and calculate the buy-ups and buy-downs between each rate (incidentally, rates tend to be offered in .125% increments, which is why we’re always conveying best-execution in .125% increments whereas the actual daily average is reflected on the Mortgage Rates page). 

Sometimes, the “sweet-spot” is obvious from looking at lenders raw pricing.  For example, For each .125% lower in rate, you’d have to pay more and more in terms of closing costs (which could be referred to as “discount” or “origination” or “points” among other things, but I’d greatly like to stay out of semantics debate and instead focus on the spirit of the matter.  Bottom line: it costs more money up front to pay a lower rate over time, whatever a lender wants to call that fee).  If it cost 0.4% of the loan amount to move down from 4.125% to 4.0%, another 0.5% to move to 3.875%, but a whopping 1.2% to move to 3.75%, it’s clear that this lender’s Best-Execution is at least 3.875%.  In some cases, some clients may opt to pay big buydowns if they understand the longer time it will take to breakeven on the extra upfront expense in terms of monthly payment savings from an .125% lower rate. 

Other times, the gaps between rates are fairly close together for several rates near Best-Execution.  This makes the process of deciding that lender’s Best-Ex rate much more subjective.  In these cases, we assume scenarios with the best combination of lowest closing costs but not at the expense of monthly interest savings that could be recouped in less than 5 years.  This almost always means a loan with no origination fee.  But when the range of options are similarly viable, we involve the community to get a consensus not only of what they’re quoting, but also which options their clients are choosing.  This is combined with the objective measurements taken from lenders, and each lender’s best-ex rate goes into calculating the average.

All that to say that this average moved up from 3.92% to 3.98% today.  3.92 rounds down to the closest eighth whereas 3.98 rounds up, thus, the 4.0% Best-Execution today.  But keep in mind that 3.875% is still very much “out there,” meaning, deals can be viably structured with 3.875% rates just as easily today as they could have been on Friday, as long as you can afford the increased closing costs.  Also keep in mind that different lenders are continuing to price in the effects of the Tax-Cut-Extension at different times and in different ways.  One large lender priced it in with today’s rates and the difference in closing costs would be substantial if you didn’t know where they were coming from.  But the tax cut extension calls for a 10bps increase to a fee that lenders have to pay the government on each loan.  That 10bps fee is like 0.1% interest rate increase, almost as much as the .125% increments we just discussed!  So just like moving up and down by .125% increments in rate affected the costs by .4, .5 and even 1.2% of the loan amount, you can see how a difference of 0.1% being priced in overnight could have a drastic effect on closing costs on a particular loan depending on the lender and the initial rate.

Today’s BEST-EXECUTION Rates

  • 30YR FIXED –  4.0%, 3.875% still a contender
  • FHA/VA -3.75%
  • 15 YEAR FIXED –  3.375%
  • 5 YEAR ARMS –  2.625-3.25% depending on the lender

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations

  • Rates and costs continue to operate near all time best levels
  • Current levels have experienced increasing resistance in improving much from here
  • There are technical reasons for that as well as fundamental reasons
  • Lenders tend to get busier when rates are in this “high 3’s” level
    and can throttle their inbound volume by raising rates or costs.
  • While we don’t necessarily think rates are destined to go higher,
    given the above facts, there seems to be more risk than reward regarding
    floating
  • But that will always be the case when rates
    oper

…(read more)

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