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Mortgage Modification: Avoiding the Traps

December 31st, 2008

The Washington Post recently ran a piece that warned of some of the pitfalls that await borrowers who wish to modify their mortgages. In particular, there are many unscrupulous operators who are willing to take substantial sums in upfront fees, but who then fail to deliver the most appropriate modification.

In fact, the worst for-profit modifiers often do not deliver anything at all. They just take hard-pressed borrowers’ money and run.

If you’re thinking of modifying your mortgage, you may find that a nonprofit advisor can help you for nothing. But–unsurprisingly in this climate–many nonprofits are overwhelmed by demand, and simply cannot respond quickly enough to urgent cases.

That’s when for-profit advisors may be the only alternative. By all means use one. But be very careful who you choose, watch them like hawks, and try to make sure that the bulk of their fees are paid only when a good deal is actually in place.

Refinancing a Mortgage? Don’t Forget “Consolidation and Assignment”

December 29th, 2008

This blog isn’t really supposed to be about tips, and hints. But, a couple of days ago, the New York Times gave such a good piece mortgage advice that I just have to pass it on. Read the rest of this entry »

A mortgage is there to keep a roof over one’s head

December 27th, 2008

On Wednesday I talked about the benefits of re-engineering mortgages. It seems to me that individual borrowers need to experience a period of stability before they’re likely to feel confident enough to trade up to a better home. Read the rest of this entry »

Housing Prices and Mortgage Rates Provide Holiday Hope — For Some

December 26th, 2008

The week leading up to Christmas was relatively free of dramatic developments. With the government having exhausted many of the options at its disposal, there was just a steady drumbeat of continued negative economic news. Meanwhile, mortgage rates slipped down a little further, exploring new record-low territory. Those lower rates take on greater significance with the slide in housing prices looking like it may actually be bottoming out in some areas.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mortgage refinancing: an essential step toward real estate recovery

December 24th, 2008

On Monday, I wrote about last week’s figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association. It looked, I said, as if current record rates were boosting loan applications, which were 37.3 percent up on the same week last year.

However, I went on to say that more than three-quarters of all applications had come from those seeking to refinance existing mortgages, and that that might not be such good news.

I haven’t changed my mind. In an ideal world—or even just in a healthy market—there would be a whole lot more people wanting new mortgages, and many fewer wanting to re-engineer their existing ones.

But we already know that the market is not healthy. In fact, it is just the opposite. And, like any invalid, it has to take baby steps before it starts thinking of running anywhere.

Refinancing is just such a baby step. People have to rediscover their confidence before they start trading up or entering the real estate market. And that means an extended period of stability along with much lower repossession, and hardship rates.

We’re getting there. But it’s going to take a while.

In the meantime, I hope you have a very happy holiday.

Mortgages: Yet More Good News for Borrowers

December 22nd, 2008

Freddie Mac unveiled yet more good mortgage news for borrowers on Friday in its weekly survey of average rates. The figure for a 30-year loan was 5.19 percent, which the Wall Street Journal says is the lowest since records began in 1971, 37 years ago. New 15-year mortgages were averaging 4.92 percent.

The Journal also pointed out that mortgages generally closely track long-term government notes, and that these are also continuing to decline. This means that there’s every reason to expect mortgage rates to continue their downward trend.

All of this positivity is translating into a much larger volume of mortgage applications. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that these are up 37.3 percent up on the same week last year. However, refinancing represents 76.9 percent of all activity, which may not be quite such good news.

More on that soon.

Mortgages: Fed Throws in the Kitchen Sink

December 19th, 2008

There was a very good article about the US economy in general–and mortgages in particular–in the Times this morning. No, not the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. It was in the original Times, which was first published in 1785 in London, England. Maybe you need to view things from across the Atlantic to get some perspective on our current financial plight.

Anyway, I urge you to read the piece. It’s all about the Fed’s latest policy of ‘quantitative easing’. Never heard of it? Me neither, up until very recently. But bankers do tend to use dry language, even to describe their most radical initiatives.

And quantitative easing is sure radical. It is the printing of vast amounts of money to buy up long-term debt-mortgage securities and government bonds. And if there’s a grain of truth in Milton Friedman’s monetarist theories, that can only mean inflation.

Perhaps we could use a dose of inflation to kick-start the mortgage and real estate markets. Maybe the alternative, stagflation, is even worse. The Times isn’t so sure. It says:

Quantitative easing is, in essence, what you do as a central bank when you have run out of things to do to avert catastrophe. It is that moment in the horror movie when you are backed up into the kitchen by the intruder and you start pulling out the kitchen sink as your last weapon.

Record-Setting Week Means Good News for Mortgage Shoppers

December 18th, 2008

It was a record-setting week all around, which adds up to good news for mortgage shoppers:

While economic weakness is enough to give some home buyers pause, it is important to remember this same economic weakness is creating the extraordinary buying opportunity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mortgage Opportunities from Record Rate Cut

December 16th, 2008

Late yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, the Federal Reserve slashed its target for the overnight federal funds rate to a range of 0 to 0.25 percent. That may sound like meaningless gobbledygook, but it’s not. It’s an all-time record low. Read the rest of this entry »

After rock bottom comes the bounce

December 15th, 2008

CNN is trailing yet another doom-and-gloom report. This one, which will be out later today, predicts that we’re less than three weeks away from yet another miserably depressing milestone. Read the rest of this entry »