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Fannie Mae Offers Assistance to Homebuyers Closing on Mortgages

January 29th, 2010

Fannie Mae is offering buyers of its foreclosed homes help with mortgage closing costs.

Mortgage Closing Costs or Appliances

Homebuyers who purchase a HomePath property owned by Fannie Mae will receive 3.5% of the final sales price toward closing costs on a home loan or appliances. Homebuyers also can choose to apply the incentive to a mix of closing costs on a mortgage loan and appliances.

To receive assistance you must purchase a property listed on HomePath.com before May 1, 2010.  Offers must be accepted on or after Jan. 28, 2010.

The HomePath Web site has photos of available homes and detailed property descriptons. Only properties purchased as your principal residence qualify for the program.

Reducing Inventory of Homes

 ”Attracting qualified buyers to the market and reducing the inventory of vacant homes is critical to stabilizing neighborhoods and helping the market recover. Many families are taking advantage of the federal homebuyer tax credit to buy a new home so this is a great time for Fannie Mae to offer some additional help,” Terry Edwards, Executive Vice President of Credit Portfolio Management, said in a statement.

Fannie Mae sold 89,691 foreclosed homes in the third quarter of 2009, according to the Washington Post

Talk with Fannie Mae Listing Broker

People who are interested in getting a mortgage and with assistance from Fannie Mae should discuss their options with a Fannie Mae listing broker. Mortgage lenders can restrict how the 3.5% incentive can be used.

Fannie Mae Mortgage Help

Fannie Mae also offers financing on some homes. The agency offers mortgage loans with low down payments even if you don’t have the best credit. The home loans don’t require mortgage insurance or appraisal fees. The HomePath Renovation Mortgage is available to purchase and renovate homes.

The down payment for both types of mortgages must be at least 3% and can be funded by your savings, a gift, grant, or loan from a nonprofit, state, or local government, or employer.

Homebuyer Tax Credit

Homebuyers also can claim the First-Time Homebuyer Credit for homes purchased through April 30, 2010. They must close on home loans by June 30, to be eligible for the tax credit, according to the Internal Revenue Service

First-time homebuyers are eligible for a tax credit up to $8,000. Existing home owners who have lived in their house for five consecutive years out of the past eight are eligible for a tax credit of up to $6,500.

Stricter Rules for FHA Mortgage Loans

January 23rd, 2010

Expect to pay more money to borrow a mortgage loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration  (FHA). Policy changes at the agency are designed to help the FHA better manage its risk as the housing market recovers.

“Striking the right balance between managing the FHA’s risk, continuing to provide access to under-served communities, and supporting the nation’s economic recovery is critically important,” FHA Commissioner David Stevens said in a statement.

Here’s what you can expect if you apply for an FHA mortgage.

Mortgage Insurance Premiums Rise

The FHA is raising the mortgage insurance premium (MIP) to help build up capital reserves and help spur private lending. The upfront MIP is rising to 2.25% from 1.75%. The FHA intends to shift some of the premium increase to the annual MIP from the upfront MIP so it can have less impact on borrowers.

Mortgage Loans and FICO Scores

 The policy changes now require borrowers to have a FICO score of at 580 to qualify for the 3.5% down payment on a FHA home loan. Anyone who has a FICO score below 580 must make a down payment of at least 10%. The new credit score requirement goes into effect this summer.

Less Help from Sellers

The revised guidelines decrease the amount of help you can get from the seller when buying a home. The FHA is reducing concessions by sellers to 3% from 6%. Concessions include things such as sellers helping with closing costs. This change conforms to industry standards.

More Enforcement on Mortgage Lenders

The FHA also says it plans to report performance rankings on mortgage lenders as a complement to Neighborhood Watch data. The move is aimed at making mortgage lenders more accountable.

Troubled Mortgage Loans

As the economy has struggled more borrowers have turned to FHA mortgages because they require smaller down payments than other loans. About 30% of new home loans are insured by the FHA. Now, the FHA finds itself burdened with a slew of troubled loans.

The FHA says it is still committed to proving mortgages to first-time homebuyers. But the tougher lending requirements mean some people may not qualify for  mortgage loans.

“It will slow the growth in demand.  Any time you put up roadblocks, fewer people will qualify,” Joel Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors, told USA Today. “This is just the beginning of clearer and more specific requirements so we don’t get into the mess we got into again. In the short term, it will have an effect, but it won’t be a huge effect.”

Strategic Defaults on the Rise

January 15th, 2010

More homeowners are choosing to walk away from their mortgage loans rather than make payments on homes that have lost significant value. These strategic defaulters intentionally stop paying on mortgages even though they can afford to make the payments.

The practice has many people debating the ethics of walking away from home loans. Some people see nothing wrong with the practice while others say homeowners who intentionally default are immoral.

Mortgages as Baggage

Strategic defaults have especially risen in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Florida, according to the Wall Street Journal. Those states have high percentages of people underwater on mortgage loans, owing more than their homes are valued at.

Promise to Repay Mortgage Loan

While it may make financial sense to walk away from a home loan, the fact is that anyone who borrowed money signed a promissory note to repay the loan. That promissory note didn’t say pay up unless home values go down or until you get tired of making monthly payments.

Financial Damage

So what happens when homeowners strategically default? First, they end up in foreclosure, and the mortgage lender takes possession of the property. Then their credit scores get hit, plunging as much as 160 points. They also may have other assets seized by their mortgage lender depending upon where they live.

Mortgage Defaults Hurt Community

Strategic defaults don’t just hurt individual homeowners. They also affect the neighborhood where the property is located. Foreclosures significantly impact the property values of surrounding homes. The closer you live to a foreclosure, the more it negatively affects your home’s value, especially if it looks abandoned and poorly maintained.

People who lived withing 300 feet of a foreclosure usually saw their property value drop 1.3%, according to a 2008 study. People within 300 to 500 feet of a foreclosure had a 0.6% drop, according to the New York Times.

Could It Happen Again?

On the positive side strategic defaulters may be able to cut their housing costs while they rent for a while. That could help them save money. But it seems that if these people are willing to renege on a home loan once, they’re likely to do it again in the future if they don’t like the housing hand they’re dealt.

Strategic defaults are likely to continue as more people become fed up with being underwater on their mortgage loans. But anyone who decides to take this step should be prepared for the fallout.

Obtaining a new mortgage loan, auto loan, or other types of credit is going to be tough for years to come. They also may feel disapproval from other people who faithfully continued paying on their home loans even though they are underwater too.

Who Wants a McMansion?

January 8th, 2010

Builder magazine recently had an article about whether or not the McMansion is dead. McMansions certainly seem out of reach for many Americans at a time when unemployment is high, demand for food stamps is up, and being frugal is in vogue.

McMansions Sitting Empty

It’s likely that the inability of many Americans to obtain jumbo mortgage loans combined with a movements to downsize may slow development of these supersized homes. Also, there seems to be an overall feeling among many folks that McMansions are wasteful. About 69% of Americans said the American home had gotten too large, according to a CNNMoney poll.

So should you give up your dream of owning a larger home, even it if can’t exactly be called a McMansion? Not necessarily. But here are a few practical things to consider.

Mortgage Debt-to-Income Ratio

You need a healthy income to afford home loan payments on a large home. Use a mortgage payment calculator to determine how much house you can afford. Keep in mind that you need to have a debt-to-income ratio within underwriter guidelines to get approved for a home loan.

Mortgage lenders usually don’t want you to have more than a 28/36 debt-to-income ratio. In other words, your housing expenses (including taxes and insurance) should ideally use up no more than 28% of your gross income, and your total debt (including a mortgage) should use up no more than 36% of your income.

Other Housing Costs Add Up

In addition to monthly mortgage payments, expect to shell out money for other housing-related costs. Those bills include utilities, repairs, and maintenance. Depending upon where you live you also may have to budget for lawn care, snow removal, or homeowner’s association dues.

Jumbo Mortgage Rates

Mortgage lenders set higher mortgage rates for jumbo home loans. There also tend to be more fees. What is classified as a jumbo mortgage loan differs from one area to the next. In most states mortgages over the conventional loan limit of $417,000 are considered jumbo loans. You are unlikely to qualify for this type of mortgage unless you have excellent credit and a substantial down payment.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a large home is a personal one. But among the things to consider are whether you really require a lot of space, believe your income is going to remain stable, have a lot of family members who plan to live there and share the expenses, and whether or not you have the time and money to maintain a large property.