Shopping for the Best Interest Rates

THE lowest interest rates in decades sound enticing enough, but they are often out of borrowers’ reach.

Mortgage lenders adjust their rates based on perceptions of risk, so unless you can show you’re a low-risk borrower, you are unlikely to qualify for a rate that matches those seen in all the advertisements or headlines.

The rates quoted by Freddie Mac and others are averages drawn from a variety of financial institutions, and lenders use varied approaches to set them. As its base line, for instance, the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union uses rates posted on the Credit Union National Association Web site for New York, according to Daniel Alejandro González, the credit union’s director of lending. Others, like Chase Mortgage, use markers like Treasury yields and agency mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae.

Consumers who want to try for the lowest rates available need to consider these basic factors.

CREDIT SCORE The ideal borrower has a FICO score of 740 or higher, said Thasunda Brown Duckett, the senior vice president of Chase Mortgage’s East Region. “That puts you in the best place for pricing,” said Ms. Duckett, whose office is based in Manhattan. According to MyFICO.com, borrowers in New York with scores of 760 to 850 could qualify for an annual percentage rate of 3.95 percent on a $500,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, while those with scores of 620 to 639 qualify for 5.53 percent.

POINTS The lowest rates usually are decreased by paying a fee called a point, or 1 percent of the loan amount. “You need to buy points in order to get the best rates at many banks,” Mr. González said. In Freddie Mac’s weekly survey on mortgage rates, points have averaged 0.7 percent on loans in the last year. Points might make sense depending on your financial situation and how long you expect to stay in a home. So ask for a zero point quote, too, and compare.

PROPERTY TYPES If you’re buying a duplex or a four-unit building, your rate will almost certainly be higher. Condominiums may also have a rate premium, especially if they are newer or your down payment is below 25 percent. Lenders charge more if you are not planning to live in the home. Commercial properties like apartment buildings have the highest rates, as they are considered riskier, Mr. González said.

DOWN PAYMENT Ms. Duckett says that borrowers who put down at least 25 percent are more likely to obtain “attractive pricing” at Chase. Lenders offer different breaks on rates if equity is higher, so you should ask what is available.

LOAN LENGTH A lot depends on how long you plan to live in a home. If you’re likely to move in a few years, an adjustable-rate loan with a low interest rate fixed for, say, three to five years, and adjusted afterward, might work best. Also, rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans are lower than those on the 30-year — 0.77 percentage points, on average, last year, according to Freddie Mac. “Some people may not need a 30-year mortgage,” said Jed Kolko, the chief economist of Trulia, the real estate information Web site.

Borrowers may also be able to reduce their mortgage rate when they enter into a “lock-in” agreement with a lender.

“Lenders typically offer a lower rate for a shorter lock period,” Mr. Kolko said.

Lenders typically agree not to change an offered interest rate for 60 days, but borrowers confident of a quick closing may be willing to accept a 45-day rate guarantee, or even a 30-day lock, in exchange for a small discount, because the transaction’s speed helps the lender reduce its risk.

Borrowers must make sure, too, that they consider the entire cost of a home, looking carefully at monthly payment calculations. According to Mr. Kolko, about a third of homeownership costs are in addition to the mortgage — among them property taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs.

Article Shared via California Association of Realtors Newsletter and the New York Times

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Appraisals – The Hurdle

Finding a home these days is journey in itself.  Getting the home you want is the next headache.  In the last year we’ve seen deals fall apart at the bitter end – over the appraisal.  Realtors take this very seriously.  We do not want overly inflated appraisals that got banks and purchasers in hot water in the past.  We also do not want to see ridiculously low appraisal either – especially in markets where housing is in recovery and values are slowly increasing.  Realtors, their clients and lenders want to see realistic appraisals.
Lately – it is taking banks more than 30 days to close a deal.  Close of escrow periods are extending from the typical 30 day window to 45 days and beyond.  Some deals are falling apart when the appraisal is much too low and neither side will budge on price, or clients are forced to pay the difference if they truly want that particular home – which can be a hot mess.  The Caton Team strives to protect our clients and will guide each buyer or seller through the best course of action – and often times the best course is different for each client.
Ways to avoid this headache.
We are blessed on the San Francisco Peninsula to have a variety of job markets in the Silicon Valley and the Biotech industries. If you’re in the market to purchase a home – The Caton Team highly recommend you work with a LOCAL lender and as professional Realtors we request local appraisers as well.  Appraisal companies have changed dramatically since the boom – and for good reason.  However, when you get an appriser who generally works in Modesto (for instance) they will not have a good grasp on the peninsula market – and often the appraisal come in to low.  The “Appraisal Review” is becoming the norm these days – when the difference is too great – and adds days to the close of escrow window.
The bottom line.  Be smart.  The Caton Team always provides our buyers with a Comparative Market Analysis which is a Realtors version of an appraisal.  We take into account the activity of similar properties in similar areas in s short window of time to determine the value of the home when writing an offer – therefore offering a solid offer with a realistic price.  Recovery of our real estate market will take time – and for those of us fortunate enough to call the San Francisco Peninsula home – we know it will recover.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://www.TheCatonTeam.com

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Below is an article I’ve found addressing these concerns that I thought I would share with my fellow readers… enjoy.
Aced Out By an Appraisal
Published by Preston Howard

One of the most frustrating things about the new world of real estate finance is the good old fashioned appraisal.

You can have a borrower who makes more money than the amount of the loan that they are requesting with an 800 FICO score and a stellar financial profile. The file can get underwritten and the deal can be the most solid deal that a bank has seen, but no one is safe until the appraisal comes back confirming the value requested. Homeowners who have been through this painstaking process know what I’m talking about. Realtors walk around in doldrums of disgust as their brokerage commissions go up in smoke. Fellow mortgage brokers bury their heads in shame and pain as deal after deal dies at the hands of an appraiser. However, the unfortunate thing is that there appears to be no end in sight.

The reality is that there were many appraisers out there who severely inflated our housing bubble by doling out overly generous values. However, the appraisal flu has spread throughout the ranks of entire armed forces of the appraisal brigade. By and large, conservative appraisers are coming in lower than ever, while aggressive appraisers have become more conservative. Lots of appraisers have quit the business entirely, while others have become property inspectors! Why is this?

Part of the pressure is coming from banks that want more conservative valuations due to enhanced regulatory scrutiny. Other forces at play include an overly abundant inventory of distressed properties. In the past, appraisers made adjustments for distressed sales; but in many markets, this is no longer the case. Given that so many appraisers are no longer making adjustments for distress, valuations are coming in 15-20%. Both instances have stalled the recovery of the housing market. Inexperienced appraisers from 50 miles away are being utilized to value properties in niche, pocket, and specialized markets. Accordingly, market knowledge is overlooked and expertise is left out of the equation. The scant facts are coming in and the effects are damaging. National realtor boards approximate that ten percent of escrows have been killed due to a low valuation. Another twelve percent of transactions are stalled in limbo, while a final eighteen percent have had to return to the negotiating table for a price change.

So, what are we to do? This calamity started when New York governor Mario Cuomo fought hard for the installment of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). Since its inception, mayhem has been unleashed across the real estate industry. What was meant to “protect the consumer” has essentially harmed the consumer, paralyzed our industry at a micro level and the economy at a macro level. Real estate professionals have been mobilizing, and the results have been mediocre at best. With the advent of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill, the HVCC has seen its “sunset”; however, the low appraisals continue to persist. The one thing that is now allowed is that anyone “with a beneficial interest” in the transaction can contact the appraiser and provide comparable sales to substantiate values. While this sounds promising, many lenders still heed to the rules of HVCC and will not allow brokers or borrowers to contact the appraiser. (Talk about not following the rules). Thankfully, some consumers are taking matters into their own hands. I have encountered homeowners who just so happened to be writers and have profiled the issue in front-page articles in the Los Angeles Time while others have been able to get their woes heralded in The Wall Street Journal. Constituents across the county are lobbying members of Congress and the Senate to draft legislation to change the HVCC. However, I don’t believe that anything major will be done until those in power are denied a loan.

Much like there were the “Friends of Angelo” who got preferential treatment with refinancing with Countrywide (many of which included various Federal lawmakers), the same will most like have to apply in the appraisal industry. When Congressmen, judges, and commissioners start to receive declination letters en masse due to low appraisals, then we will see a shift in the pendulum. I haven’t heard of Ben Bernanke getting a low appraisal on his home or President Obama. However, I do believe that if Max Baucus (Chair of the Senate Finance Committee) gets a low-ball appraisal, then the issue will get traction. If the “Gang of Six” all get forced to the negotiating table due to a low valuation, I have a feeling that our deficit will take a back seat to Senator Coburn and Senator Conrad’s desire to lock in a rate that hasn’t been this low since both gentlemen were in elementary school.

In summary, we are all tired of watching deals go up in smoke over conservative appraisals. It’s a shame to not go forward on a deal with good credit, strong cash flow, and clean collateral when you don’t know if you are at 75% or 85% LTV. Collectively, we need to advocate change and encourage local and national champions to spearhead the issue. Money is being spent, deals are being lost, and tempers are flaring. Enhanced legislation and examination are needed to stop the run away train of low valuation. Therefore, call your member of Congress and express your frustration. If you have access to media, spread the word. Our equity depends on it and ultimately, so does our economy.

Preston Howard is a mortgage broker and Principal of Rose City Realty, Inc. in Pasadena, CA. Specializing in various facets of real estate finance.

Republished from Broker Agent Social Network Newsletter. Aug 2011.