Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

Many American's get upset when government officials and politicians do things behind closed doors rather than open to public scrutiny. After all, we are a democratic society and we want open government--not back room deals. On the other hand, we have a feeling that the majority of the negotiations aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff are really taking place behind closed doors while the politicians ramp up the public rhetoric so that their political bases are satisfied with their leaders' positions. One should be looking not so much at what you see and hear in the media vs. what you can't see and hear as easily. For that news you have to dig a bit deeper. What we all should be looking for here is compromise. There is not a single side that will win the other side over. Each will have to contribute to the compromise with significant concessions. The true winner of the compromise will be America and especially the American economy. The latest employment report tells us that even though the numbers are improving, we still have a long way to go. The markets were relieved that Hurricane Sandy did not seem to have as great an impact on the report as expected. There is no denying the fact that we have come a long way from the depths of the recession and there is more work to be done. If our leaders start getting their work done behind closed doors, it certainly would help.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Talks Get Serious

While the analysts report that the Holiday shopping season has gotten off to a strong start, the news from Congress continues to stay front and center. The lame duck session is addressing the automatic budget cuts and tax increases that go into effect in January if an agreement is not reached. The changes would be so draconian that the media has nick-named these "the fiscal cliff." The concern right now is whether the threat of the fiscal cliff is causing businesses not to hire and consumers not to spend. Thus far, the results from Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to indicate that at least the public is not worried. We are not of a mind to believe that Congress will let us fall down a fiscal cliff. We do understand that if they wait for the last minute -- not unusual for Congress -- and start the finger-pointing rhetoric, it could hurt the economy as we approach the Holidays. Thus far, Congress has been pretty cordial. It is as if the elections delivered a message to our representatives that we want them to work together. Keep in mind that even though we think either a temporary "kick the can down the road" or permanent solution will come out of the talks, that does not mean the economy will not be affected. Higher tax revenues, budget cuts and even changes in Medicare and Social Security are all on the table. You can't cut a trillion dollar deficit without raising revenue and lowering spending. The lobbyists are busy protecting their clients' interests such as social security and the mortgage tax deduction. We hope a balanced approach will emerge and a major potential stumbling block for the economic recovery will be removed. Meanwhile, this Friday look for the most unimportant employment report in a while. The data is expected to be skewed because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums Will Increase Soon

If you are considering buying or refinancing a home, you should know that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will soon increase mortgage insurance premiums on FHA home loans.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it would increase the annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP) by 0.10% for FHA loans under $625,500. ...This would raise the fee from 1.15% to 1.25% of the total loan amount. This annual premium increase — which is broken down into monthly payments — takes effect April 1, 2012.
In addition, HUD announced it would raise the FHA's upfront annual mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) from 1% to 1.75% effective April 1, 2012.
Starting June 1, 2012, the MIP for FHA loans over $625,500 will increase 0.35%, raising that fee to 1.50% of the total loan amount.
The primary reason for the changes is to bolster capital reserves for FHA's Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. Congress has mandated the fund keep 2% in reserves. Last year, that reserve had slipped to 0.2%. The changes are expected to generate about $1 billion annually for the fund.
The increase in mortgage insurance costs applies to the purchase or refinancing of all FHA loans regardless of the amortization term or loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. The increases will not apply to borrowers already in an FHA-insured mortgage, a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), and other special loan programs to be outlined in a forthcoming FHA Mortgagee Letter.
If you are considering refinancing or making a purchase, you might want to act before the new mortgage insurance premiums take effect.
If you would like more information about what these higher fees will mean for you , please contact me today.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Mandatory Increase In Mortgage Loan Fees Directed to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

On December 23, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011. Among its provisions, this new law directs the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to increase guarantee fees charged by Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae by no less than 10 basis points from the average guarantee fee charged by these companies in 2011 on single-family mortgage backed securities....

This requirement is effective immediately, meaning that the average guarantee fees charged in 2012 need be at least 10 basis points greater than the average guarantee fees charged in 2011 and that this increase be remitted to the U.S. Treasury rather that retained as reserves by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Basically what this means is mortgage rates are going up and are being "taxed" in order to pay for the payroll tax cuts. So essentially, homeowners will pay for this program. Not to mention it will put a downward pressure on home values as new buyers will have reduced buying power. This definatley does NOT help to stimulate the struggling housing market. Additionally the money will be transfered from Fannie and Freddie to the Treasury.