Buying a Home that Floats

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904888304576476152747313600.html?mod=WSJ_RealEstate_RIGHTTopCarousel
Original Post Date: July 29, 2011

By: June Fletcher

Q. I cannot afford to buy a waterfront home. However, I saw an ad recently for a houseboat that I can afford. The idea of living in one intrigues me. Am I crazy to consider it?

–Portland, Ore.

A. You’re not crazy—plenty of people live on houseboats (which have motors and can move) or floating homes (which have no means of propulsion and are permanently moored). But they’re not for everyone. You’ll probably enjoy one best if you’re adventurous; mechanically inclined; not afraid to brave waves and weather; and don’t need a yard and basement storage.

Before you make an offer, ask the owner to show you the boat’s title, and also to certify in writing that the boat has no liens against it and that it has never either sunk nor collided with another vessel. Find out why the owner is selling and how long the boat has been for sale. Ask to see maintenance records, and inquire about fuel costs, operating expenses and taxes.

Also, ask about slip fees and whether or not dock space can be purchased. Leasing fees average several hundred dollars a month, and are determined by both the length of the boat and whether it’s an inside slip or an outside one with the best views and easiest access to the water. Buying a slip might cost you six figures, with added association fees for garbage, sewer, security gates, utilities and water. Find out if the association provides access to any community amenities, like a clubhouse or pool, and what its policies are in terms of pet ownership and parking.

Then, if the home is motorized, take it out for a spin. Test everything from its horn to its bilge pump. Make sure it has all the equipment that it needs to be seaworthy, including enough lifejackets for everyone on the boat, a fire extinguisher, grappling hooks and an anchor. Make note of which accessories convey, like fish finders, barbecue grills and televisions.

You’ll want to get a home inspection, of course. But you probably won’t be able to get a loan to buy the home or insurance unless you get a float inspection as well, where trained divers check out the vessel’s platform (which in Portland may be old logs) to see if there is dry rot or other issues, and if it is level in the water.

Because houseboats and floating homes are considered riskier investments than ones on land, you can expect to pay higher interest rates for a loan, and a hefty down payment of at least 20 percent. Bigger banks are less likely to offer such loans than smaller banks or credit unions. It’s worthwhile to ask the owner if he or she is willing to provide financing. Fortunately—at least for now—the interest on your mortgage is tax deductible.

Because these homes present unusual challenges, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about them before you buy, and to work with a real estate agent who specializes in them.

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Mortgages Hold Steady

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904800304576474232996074702.html?mod=WSJ_RealEstate_LeftTopNews
Original Post Date: July 29, 2011

By: Mia Lamar

“Macroeconomic data released this week were a mixed bag,” said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft. “On the positive side, the index of leading indicators in June rose for the second consecutive month, beating the market consensus forecast.

Partly offsetting this, orders for durable goods were weaker than market expectations for the same month.”

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.55% for the week ended Thursday, up from 4.52% the previous week and last year’s rate of 4.54%. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.66%, flat from last week though down from 4% a year earlier.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.25%, down from 3.27% last week and 3.76% a year ago. One-year Treasury-indexed ARM rates averaged 2.95%, down from 2.97% in the prior week and 3.64% in the prior year.

To obtain the rates, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages required an average payment of 0.8 point, while 15-year fixed rates required an average 0.7 point payment. A point is 1% of the mortgage amount, charged as prepaid interest. Five-year adjustable rate mortgages required an average 0.6-point payment, while one-year adjustable rates required an average 0.5 point payment.

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Debunking popular real estate myths

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-lew-20110724,0,7989636.story
Original Post Date: July 24, 2011

By: Lew Sichelman

Reporting from Washington—

When it comes to real estate, all is not always as it seems. Many buyers — and some sellers — labor under misconceptions that could sink their housing aspirations.

Take the notion that you will hunt for a house until you find the “perfect” one. Sorry. There is no such thing as the perfect house. Even gently used houses come with blemishes. And new homes rarely, if ever, have absolutely everything you want at the price you want to spend.

Another popular myth is that the longer a house is on the market, the more willing the seller will be to negotiate. Not necessarily.

A long time on the market could be a sign that the seller has dug in his heels.

He could be hardheaded about the price, unwilling to come down and unwilling to bargain. Perhaps it means the seller is unmotivated. Or it could be an indication that the seller is just tired of the long, drawn-out process.

“After some point, most sellers become exhausted,” says Bill Kuhlman, broker-owner of Kuhlman Residential Real Estate in Needham, Mass.

Among the frustrations that can sap a seller’s spirit and stamina, Kuhlman lists these: the need to keep the house in showroom condition for months, having to put the house back on the market after one issue or another sinks a deal that looked so promising, having to put more money into the place to improve its marketability, or having to cut the asking price to the bone in a series of unsuccessful attempts to entice a buyer to step forward.

“Any of these can extract a heavy toll,” Kuhlman says. “And they can become overwhelming when two or more of them come into play.”

Add into the equation that moving is stressful, or that the seller is starting a new job or a new life, and it’s possible that the seller will act irrationally. Maybe he’ll balk over a minor issue the buyer wants fixed. Or if he feels slighted, perhaps he’ll break off negotiations altogether.

The bottom line: There is no way of knowing how a seller will react to an offer, so assume nothing, Kuhlman says. “All buyers can do is make an offer that makes sense to them at the time and see how the seller responds.”

Speaking of offers, many people believe they can make any bid they want, no matter how ridiculous, because it’s a buyer’s market. False. Even foreclosures and short sales are never priced at half their value “or anything even close to that type of fire-sale discount,” says Christina Rordam of Exit Real Estate Results in Longwood, Fla.

Besides, starting exceptionally low because you can always go higher could offend the seller to the point that he won’t respond. Or if he does and you end up buying the place, you could be in for a difficult transaction because the seller just won’t like you.

“Homes are personal, and sellers take such things personally,” says Lou Barbee of Re/Max Real Estate Group in Rocky River, Ohio.

So if the inspection turns up a few issues that you would like fixed, don’t expect the seller to make the repairs because you’ve already nickel-and-dimed him to the point where he is not going to lose any more money, no matter what.

Another popular misconception involves distressed properties and the notion held among many folks that buying one would be cheaper and easier than working with a seller who’s under no particular pressure to ink a deal. Not so, says John Platten, a Keller Williams agent in West St. Charles, Mo.

When you’re buying a foreclosure from a bank or dealing with a lender on a short sale, don’t expect logical or rational decisions, Platten warns. “Banks work on their own set of rules, have their own priorities. They make decisions based on the financials at the moment and usually don’t consider the future costs of a delayed sale or the condition of the property.”

In fact, distressed sales often take much longer than normal to close if they close at all. And they are far more difficult, which is why Sue Paskert of Courter Realty in Tampa, Fla., won’t touch them.

“Lenders are extremely difficult to deal with, whether it be a lack of communication or incompetence, who knows?” Paskert says. “But it takes many months to get approval. And in the end, the buyer may not get the house and, therefore, lose out on other good deals.”

Then there’s the notion, especially among first-time buyers, that they need the advice of their parents or friends before making a decision. After all, Dad or best buddy knows as much about the real estate market as their agents, if not more. Wrong — especially if these relatives or friends haven’t dabbled in real estate for years.

Finally, if you like a place, try to buy it. Don’t wait, especially in markets showing signs of recovery.

Keith Elliott of House to Home Realty in Fairfax, Va., had clients not long ago who found a home they liked, only to lose it because they wanted to wait because the market was still down. As a result, someone else snatched up the place.

“When it sells and they didn’t get it,” says Colleen Cotter of Keller Williams in San Diego, “they are mad and accuse the agent of not making them act.” But if you wait for prices to drop some more, you may have only yourself to blame.

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Banks gearing up to fill looming gap in jumbo loans

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20110710,0,7259626.story
Original Post Date: July 10, 2011

By: Kenneth R. Harney

Reporting from Washington—

How big a deal is the upcoming cutback in mortgage limits for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration? Will buyers and sellers who depend on jumbo-sized loans find themselves in a financing squeeze after Oct. 1, when the limits plunge in key markets around the country?

Housing and realty lobbies are pushing hard on Capitol Hill for a continuation of the $729,750 high-cost area maximum, but one industry is delighted by the prospect and is gearing up to fill the gap.

From small community banks to megabanks, the message is the same: Bring on the switch to lower limits. We plan to expand our jumbo loan business wherever market demand requires. There will be no financing squeeze for anyone who needs a mortgage too big for Fannie, Freddie or the FHA, provided the applicant is creditworthy and has enough of a down payment.

Congress raised the conventional and FHA limits during the economic crisis to ensure access to capital for buyers and refinancers. Those limits are scheduled to adjust downward Oct. 1, unless lawmakers agree to an extension — a move that would run counter to calls from Republicans and the Obama administration to reduce the federal footprint in the mortgage arena.
Federal guarantees support loans purchased, securitized or insured by Fannie, Freddie and the FHA, putting taxpayers’ dollars at risk in the event of foreclosures. Fannie and Freddie together have sopped up more than $150 billion in direct taxpayer assistance since being placed in federal conservatorship three years ago because of mounting losses from loan defaults.

On Oct. 1, the maximum loan at each of the three federal mortgage giants will fall to $625,500. Though the upper-limit decline is only $104,250 below where it is today, some realty and business analysts worry that buyers who need big mortgages — especially in California, New York, New England, Florida and Washington, D.C. — will be forced to make much heftier down payments, pay higher interest rates or be prevented from purchasing the house they want.

Bankers say those worries are way overblown. Cam Fine, president and chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers Assn., says his 5,000-plus members plan to take up the slack in the jumbo arena and have the financial capacity to do so. Community banks, which generally range in size up to $20 billion in assets, “are very adept at creating products that fit the needs of customers,” Fine said.

Matt Vernon, national mortgage sales executive for Bank of America — the country’s largest by assets — said his institution has been aggressive in the jumbo segment for more than a year, and is planning to pick up the pace even more in the coming months. Bank of America funded $4.1 billion in jumbos during the first quarter of this year alone.

Meanwhile, interest rates on jumbos are near their lowest levels ever — in the 5% range for 30-year fixed-rate loans, around 3% for some hybrid adjustables. Spreads between conventional-sized loans and jumbos have narrowed from 200 to 250 basis points (2% to 2.5%) three years ago to just above half a percentage point today. On loans of $400,000, Bank of America is offering “5/1” adjustables at 3% plus 0.875 point. A 5/1 loan’s interest rate is fixed for the first five years, then converts to a one-year adjustable. A 5/1 loan of $800,000 goes for 3.5% with 0.875 point. Other big banks have competitive rates.

Noah Wilcox, CEO and vice chairman of Grand Rapids State Bank in Grand Rapids, Minn., says community banks such as his can essentially tailor jumbo mortgages for individual customers because they retain all the loans in their own investment portfolios.
“We’ve seen jumbos with 10% down payments” and other exceptional terms for clients, he said. Based on the borrower’s income and assets and the value of the house, “if it makes sense” his bank will try to do it — or at least consider it.

Bankers’ aggressive expansion plans and big promises notwithstanding, there are sobering realities that home buyers seeking jumbo loans are likely to confront when Fannie, Freddie and the FHA no longer are in the picture. Tops on the list: If you thought underwriting standards are strict already, be prepared for even tougher evaluations by community and national banks.

Also, unlike at nondepository mortgage companies, banks prefer to do jumbo loans primarily — or solely — for applicants who are their customers and have some sort of account established. So if you haven’t deposited money or established some sort of relationship with the bank, don’t expect to see its best deal.

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Investors to the rescue of housing market

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-lew-20110703,0,7661953.story
Original Post Date: July 10, 2011

By: Lew Sichelman

Reporting from Washington—

Who is going to lead the housing market out of the doldrums?

Certainly it won’t be move-up buyers. People who already own homes are not likely to be venturing forth to find another one until they can sell their current residences. And with all those foreclosures gumming up the works, it’s tough to stand out in the crowd unless you’re willing to give your place away.

It probably won’t be first-time buyers, either. Despite the most affordable prices and loan rates in ages, rookies have shown a marked propensity to remain on the sidelines. After all, why rush? Who wants to buy a house, only to see its value go down? Why not wait until we know values have hit bottom?

That leaves investors. According to a new survey from the California outfit that operates the official website of the National Assn. of Realtors, real estate investors will outnumber traditional borrowers 3 to 1 over the next two years.

Investors are sometimes thought of as bottom feeders who pick off properties from financially troubled sellers who see no other way out. And while there most likely will be a bit of that going forward, this time around the main prey will be banks, not strapped consumers.

That’s a good thing. The overwhelming consensus is that before the sinking housing market can right itself, banks must rid themselves of millions of houses and apartments they’ve already taken back or will repossess in the future. Get them off their books and into the hands of users. Only after houses under duress are cleared from the decks will housing find its footing.

Investors often are in and out in a flash, buying a place, splashing some paint on the walls, maybe updating the appliances and then reselling at a good, if not huge, profit. Again, while there will be some “flipping” in the future, the survey by Move Inc. found that most investors will buy and hold for at least five years, long enough for many neighborhoods to stabilize.

Moreover, nearly half say they plan to invest their own time and energy to repair, maintain and improve their properties. And 30% say they’ll hire a contractor to do the work.

These would-be investors still expect to reap decent returns. Nearly half of the 200 investors queried — a statistically relevant sample — expect to make a profit of 20% or more when they sell after their five-year or longer hold. In the meantime, most will put their investments to work as rentals. Some may even live in their properties until they jettison them sometime down the road.

In other words, says Move Chief Executive Steve Berkowitz, today’s investors, many of whom are new to real estate, are not your stereotypical deal-driven sharks. Rather, he says, they are mostly entrepreneurial individuals who “will make vital contributions to local communities by investing their own money and sweat equity [that] over the long run will help improve housing stocks, home values and property tax bases in thousands of local communities.”

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Mortgage Rates Are Great, If You Qualify

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303544604576436331698560662.html?mod=WSJ_RealEstate_RIGHTTopCarousel
Original Post Date: July 10, 2011

By: Tom Lauricella

With interest rates near rock bottom and home prices down, this ought to be a great time to buy a home. But for most people, it’s a lousy time to get a mortgage.

Years after the collapse of the real-estate market and resulting financial crisis, it takes nearly pristine credit scores and hefty down payments to get the best rates.

“Since 2009, credit has become a lot tighter,” says Greg Reiter, who follows mortgage-backed bonds at RBS Global Banking & Markets.

For borrowers, this highlights the need to pay close attention to credit scores. New rules unveiled last week should make it easier for consumers to see how their credit scores affect the interest rates they pay. These rules, the result of last year’s Dodd-Frank financial-services legislation, require banks and other lenders to disclose to consumers the scores used to determine interest rates charged borrowers, or to deny credit.

The new reality for borrowers can be seen in the FICO credit scores on the loans that banks are giving out and that are backed by government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These days the two agencies essentially finance 75% of all mortgages by purchasing the loans from the banks. In the process, they shape how much it costs to borrow.

FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Pre-crisis, a score of 700 to 725 was deemed solid and a borrower could expect to get a “conventional” mortgage at the lowest rates.

From 2003 through 2006, 82% of Fannie Mae mortgages were for borrowers with a score between 700 and 750, according to data compiled by RBS.

But so far in 2011, only 13% of Fannie Mae mortgages carry that score, and just 1.7% have a score of 700 to 725, according to RBS. This year, 75% of Fannie Mae mortgages are for FICO scores of 750 to 775, up from less than 5% before 2005.
Meanwhile, the median score is 711, according to FICO.

“Half the population is locked out” from the best mortgages, says Mr. Reiter.

The upshot is that borrowing costs more even with a 730 score and a 20% down payment, says Norman Calvo, president of Universal Mortgage in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Three years ago, if you had 730 it was excellent,” Mr. Calvo says. Today, he says, it could cost an extra 0.125 percentage point per year on a mortgage, “just because you have one little nick on your credit report.”

For more typical scores, the premiums are even bigger. At 700 to 725, it’s usually an extra quarter percentage point, and at 630 — if a borrower can find a loan — the additional cost is 1.5 percentage points, Mr. Calvo says. “If you have a credit score of less than 680, you’ve got to be worried about approvability.”

The news is also grim for those looking to refinance. Based on the level of interest rates, RBS estimates 60% of agency-backed mortgages should be eligible to refinance. But once home values and credit scores are factored in, just 12% are eligible.

These trends show the importance of understanding credit scores. Mr. Calvo says borrowers sometimes unintentionally make matters worse. For example, closing an unused credit card can actually lower a score in the short term, he says.

Check your credit scores at AnnualCreditReport.com. And to learn more about scores, visit the education section of myFICO.com.

Corrections & Amplifications

Closing an unused credit-card account can lower your credit score in the short term. A story in today’s Wall Street Journal Sunday incorrectly stated it could raise a credit score in the short term.

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Obama administration boosts aid for unemployed homeowners

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-foreclosure-aid-20110708,0,1640816.story
Original Post Date: July 7, 2011

By: Jim Puzzanghera

Reporting from Washington—

Still scrambling to stabilize the struggling housing market, the Obama administration will allow some unemployed homeowners to miss a year of mortgage payments without threat of foreclosure while they try to find a new job.

The expanded assistance — triple the current limit of four months for those with government-insured mortgages — could help “tens of thousands” of people keep their homes, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said.
“Helping struggling borrowers avoid default is not only good for those borrowers, it is good for the economy,” he said.

But hoping to avoid high expectations that have accompanied other administration foreclosure efforts, Donovan cautioned Thursday that the move wasn’t a “silver bullet.”

The new requirement for so-called forbearance comes on top of several initiatives the White House has launched since 2009 to try to stem the tide of foreclosures, which continue to drive down real estate prices.

President Obama admitted this week that those efforts — such as the much-maligned Home Affordable Modification Program, which offered incentives to banks to lower monthly payments for troubled borrowers — haven’t tamed the problem.

“We’ve had to revamp our housing program several times to try to help people stay in their homes and try to start lifting home values up,” Obama said. “That’s probably been the area that’s been most stubborn to us trying to solve the problem.”

Housing advocates and some lawmakers have pushed the administration to increase the amount of time unemployed homeowners would be allowed to skip payments. The White House agreed partly because 60% of people without jobs have been unemployed for more than three months, Donovan said.

Separately, the Federal Reserve told Congress on Thursday that it wanted uniform standards for how mortgage servicers handle modifications, foreclosures and other issues. The Fed, along with HUD and other federal regulators, is working on such standards.

In addition, regulators are working with attorneys general from all 50 states on a broad settlement with major banks of investigations into botched foreclosure paperwork.

The administration’s latest plan, unveiled Thursday, affects a small group of homeowners — about 3,500 borrowers a month who default on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and a total of about 1 million people eligible for HAMP aid.

But Donovan said he hoped that the new requirements would be adopted voluntarily throughout the broader mortgage industry.

Under the plan, mortgage servicers for FHA-insured loans will be required to allow qualified homeowners to miss up to 12 months of payments as unemployed borrowers look for new jobs.

The administration also is making it easier for unemployed homeowners to qualify for the assistance, removing what it called some “upfront hurdles” involving screening for employment and payment history.

In addition, mortgage servicers participating in the administration’s mortgage modification program will be required “whenever possible” to extend the minimum period that eligible unemployed homeowners can miss payments to 12 months.

The missed payments would be added to the mortgage balance and made up by the homeowner, though in some cases those debts could be forgiven by the lender, Donovan said.

But like the other government attempts to aid homeowners, the new effort has limitations. Only about 10% of some 50 million mortgage loans outstanding nationwide are backed by the FHA. And less than a quarter of the approximately 4.6 million homeowners who are behind on their mortgages qualify for the HAMP program.

Bert Ely, an independent banking consultant, said allowing unemployed homeowners to skip payments sounds good in theory but has problems that would make it difficult for the industry to adopt a 12-month standard.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times forbearance just postpones the problem,” he said. “So you extend from four months to 12 months and things don’t work out. Who eats the loss?”

But the People Improving Communities Through Organizing National Network, a coalition of faith-based community groups, said the administration’s announcement Thursday was “yet another step toward breaking the link in America between losing your job and losing your home.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) also cheered the move, saying many of his colleagues believed that the previous minimum “was not nearly enough time.”

“I think the 12-month extension will help very much,” he said.

Last year, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which funded the administration’s mortgage modification initiative, urged that the minimum period for skipped payments be increased.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, one of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, said it already offered homeowners the ability to skip up to 12 months of payments “in some cases.” From January 2009 to last April, the company has offered assistance to 173,000 customers who have lost their jobs, spokesman Tom Goyda said.

Because the administration hasn’t released details of the changes in its programs, Wells Fargo would not comment specifically on them, he said.

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Can a Retiree Get a Mortgage?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450604576420143484886916.html?mod=WSJ_RealEstate_RIGHTTopCarousel
Original Poste Date: July 1, 2011

By: June Fletcher

Q. I want to buy a retirement home in North Carolina for $263,000. I am selling my home in New Jersey, where I have lived for many years. Although I could pay all cash for the home I’m buying, I’d prefer to take advantage of current low interest rates and not to tie up so much of my money in real estate. The problem is, I’m 69. Would anyone give me a mortgage at my age? And if they did, would I be foolish to take it?

–Little Silver, N.J.

A. As long as you pass a lender’s scrutiny in terms of income, debt-to-income, credit and all the other factors any loan applicant must meet, you should be able to get a mortgage.

In fact, any lender who refused you just because of your age would be guilty of violating the federal government’s Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The act makes it illegal to discriminate against someone because of age, among other factors, provided that the applicant has the capacity to enter into a contract.

You also are eligible for any type of loan available, including conventional, Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs, if you meet the program guidelines. Some of these loans require low or no down payments and no private mortgage insurance, which would maximize your available cash.

If you should die before the mortgage is paid off, the unpaid balance will become a lien that is tied to the property. Your heirs will have to either make the payments, sell the home to pay off the mortgage and any other liens, or refinance the loan.

Because you are older than 62 and have presumably amassed considerable equity in your current home, you also have another option, a reverse mortgage. The most popular of these loans is FHA’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM. This program allows you to convert the equity in your home into cash. You access the money in a fixed monthly amount, a line of credit, or both. You can use the cash for whatever you want.

Thanks to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, you may be able to purchase a new home and get a reverse mortgage in a single transaction, which will avoid the need for a second closing. Provided that you and the property you want to purchase qualify for the program, you won’t have to pass any income or credit checks. And you will be able to roll closing costs into the mortgage.

There are some caveats. Among them: You will have to meet with a HECM counselor, who will talk about eligibility requirements and alternatives to the mortgage. You will have to pay cash for the difference between the total proceeds that you receive from the HECM and the sales price. You must own your current property outright or have a small mortgage balance. You can’t be in arrears on any federal debt, and the home you buy has to be a primary home and a one-to-four unit property that meets FHA’s minimum property requirements for health and safety.

If you are building a new home, construction has to be completed and you will need a certificate of occupancy. Also on the downside: Reverse mortgages can be expensive—overall, they tend to be more costly than traditional loans—and they will reduce the amount of equity you have in your home. Moreover, some consumer advocates are wary of them, and some banks have stopped making them.

I don’t know enough about your financial situation to recommend what the best course of action is for you. But I can say that given the current state of the housing market, it will probably be years before you will see much appreciation on your new home. So whatever choice you make, I think you are right to free up at least some cash, and not sink it all in real estate.

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Rates on 30-year mortgages edging up

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mortgage-rates-20110701,0,2961764.story
Original Poste Date: July 1, 2011

By: E. Scott Reckard

After hovering for four weeks at 4.5%, the 30-year fixed-rate home loan appears to be heading higher.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, a benchmark for long-term mortgages, had risen nearly a third of a percentage point by Thursday from its recent low point last Friday. Mortgage rates were following slowly, industry officials said.

Laguna Niguel mortgage broker Jeff Lazerson said he was telling borrowers with good credit on Wednesday that they could get a fixed-rate 30-year, non-jumbo loan at 4.625% with zero closing costs.

On Thursday, the rate for the same no-cost mortgage had edged up to 4.75%.

“Rates are still excellent but the mortgage waters are choppy,” Lazerson said.

The factors nudging rates higher Thursday included a strong report on manufacturing, a sign the economy could pick up and increase inflation. It was also the final day of a $600-billion Federal Reserve program designed to tamp down rates and stoke the economy through purchases of Treasury securities.

Looking ahead, slightly higher rates appear likely, said Frank Nothaft, an economist at Freddie Mac, the giant government-backed mortgage finance company.

“Our expectation for the second half of the year is to see rates fluctuate between 4.5% and 5%. We’ve been at the low end of that range recently,” Nothaft said. “We think it’s likely to climb to the upper part of the range by the end of the year.”

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of what lenders are offering to A-credit borrowers, compiled Monday through midday Wednesday, pegged the typical rate for a 30-year fixed-rate home loan at 4.51%.

That compared with 4.50%, 4.50%. and 4.49% in the three prior quarters. The 30-year rate had risen above 5% in February during a period of improving economic news.

The rate for 15-year fixed mortgages was unchanged at 3.69% early this week, Freddie Mac said.

Borrowers obtaining the 30-year and 15-year mortgages on average would have paid 0.7% of the loan amount in upfront fees and points to the lender, Freddie Mac said, with additional costs for third-party services such as appraisals.

The Freddie Mac survey asks lenders what rates they are offering to solid borrowers who have 20% down payments or 20% home equity if they are refinancing. Well-qualified borrowers who shop around often are able to obtain slightly better rates.

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