Buyers and sellers may want to tune in because changes are coming to the lending process in September and it will affect home buyers. Sellers tend to say that’s not my problem, but it will be if your buyer no longer qualifies for the loan.

Credit Report Changes Coming

Credit Report Changes Coming

Certain loan programs are going to what they call Trended Credit Reports. Trended credit data is different than a FICO score which captures a particular point in time. Trended data looks at the trend and whether a borrower’s creditworthiness is improving or declining over time.

A buyer may have an excellent FICO score but if their trend is negative as Federated Financial reports says  it could affect their ability to finance that much or the pricing on the loan, which also can affect the total amount financed. Many lenders are up in arms over this change, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For instance, let’s say you charge $1,500/mo on your credit card for everything from groceries, repairs, phone bill, etc. You pay off that $1,500/mo so you have a zero balance each month. Under the current system they see an average balance of $1,500 mo on your credit report. You choose to collect the points on your credit card instead of writing checks but the money remains the same. Under trended credit reporting it just might be that you’re not penalized for charging to your credit card instead of a bunch of online banking payments.

We believe the new reporting will focus on credit utilization scores among other things and what that overall trend looks like, although we don’t know for sure. It’s important to note that this is a FNMA decision. This shouldn’t affect FHA loans.

We often tell buyers, don’t go out and buy a new car just before you close on your home. Buyers get the loan approval to buy their home and think everything is a done deal. What they don’t realize is lenders go back and pull credit again just before the closing and if there is a change they can deny the loan. I’ve seen it happen more times that I care to count. I know agents out there counsel their buyers but for some reason they forget that point.

If you’re considering buying it really helps to talk to a lender first. Sellers won’t entertain your offer unless a pre-approval letter accompanies your offer anyway. You can save a lot of time by knowing what the lender requires. Quite often a buyer needs to just have one thing changed in their financial situation and they’re good to go. Doing it upfront can save your deal and help you to shop in the correct price range.

If you’d like to speak to a lender, give us a call. 239-489-4042 We can recommend some good ones for you and really speed up the process. It doesn’t cost any money to talk to a lender upfront, and it can save you money on inspections and appraisals by knowing the facts upfront. You’ll save time and money.

Buyers are happy to find out they qualify for more now because rates have dropped. You might be surprised at what you can afford, but don’t go buy that new car until after you get the home.

If you’d like to search for your perfect home, go to www.LeeCountyOnline.com It has all the homes and the database is updated every 5 minutes, so you’ll beat out other buyers to hot new listings.

If you have a property to sell, you can call us too. 239-489-4042 Find out why our listings sell fast and for top dollar.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

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Sales volume has slipped this year primarily because inventory levels are down. However, we have noticed a slight trend in the past few months worth noting.

SW Florida Real Estate sales 2012

Inventory levels actually rose in September for single family homes, albeit only 5 homes which is rather insignificant. Because sales are less, it did raise the standing inventory to a 3.5 month supply, up from 3.4 months the previous month. Both numbers are low.

Another trend we are watching is the median sales price, which has fallen for 2 consecutive months. This is a seasonal trend we see this time of year so we are not alarmed. Heading into season we’re going to need all the inventory this market can muster, and right now it may not be enough. Prices are still much higher than last year.

Fort Myers Cape Coral Media Sale Prices

We would have liked to see home prices rise the past few months, but not for the reasons you might think. Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, and all of SW Florida is considered a declining market by FNMA and Freddie Mac. The appraiser usually notates this on the appraisal report to the lender. According to guidelines, and area must have 3 consecutive quarters of rising prices to break a declining market tag.

Lee County had a strong 4th qtr 2011 and 1st qtr 2012 but came up short in 2nd qtr. This contradicts our data so I’m not sure how they calculate this. I’m hearing whispers that the tag may come off Collier County Florida in January, but we’ll wait and see if that actually happens.

The reason this is important is because it removes additional restrictions and paperwork requirements when the tag is lifted. FNMA is already making loans tougher this November with new guidelines. For instance, self employed borrowers will find it more difficult and cumbersome to receive a mortgage. They will require personal and corporate tax returns for last 2 yrs no matter what. Lenders are just now receiving the new guidelines and sifting through the changes.

September is seasonal, and it’s not uncommon for sales to lighten this time of year. It does feel on the street as though there’s a dichotomy to the market. Agent listings seem to either get a ton of activity and offers or very little. This may change in the next few months as snowbirds tend to scoop up higher priced inventory for second homes and investment.

The upcoming election may have also stifled buyers who are afraid to make a big purchase until the see which leadership will guide the country and what the new economic landscape may look like. We’ve seen on TV many company CEO’s waiting to make hiring and firing decisions until after the election, and it’s quite possible buyers will do the same. If you’re worried about your job, chances are you’re not in the market to change your housing.

Once the election is over, the direction the nation and economy goes in may become clearer, and consumer confidence could rise. If and when that happens we believe SW Florida is poised to take advantage with lots of potential for price appreciation. All signs point to higher once the job outlook improves, and help may be just around the corner.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!!!

 

Prior to 2007 homeowners who had a short sale or foreclosure were subject to pay income taxes on any amount of forgiven debt. So let’s say a homeowner in 2006 had a mortgage of $400,000 and decided to sale as a short sale for $200,000, that homeowner would have had income of approximately $200,000 according to the IRS. Assuming this put that homeowner in the 25% tax bracket, this homeowner would owe an additional $50,000 taxes to the US government. Keep in mind, perhaps none of this money went into the pocket of the homeowner, it was simply forgiven debt. The same would be true for a bank foreclosure.

Important Tax News Could Save You Thousands
Important Tax News Could Save You Thousands

Back in 2007 the US government signed into law the Mortgage Relief Act which provided homeowners who used their home as a primary residence relief up to $2 million for married couples and $1 million for individuals from any shortage being treated as income by the IRS. In the previous example above, the $200,000 would be free from being treated as income as long as it was their primary residence. The lender must formally forgive the loan.

The US government is giving homeowners until December 31, 2012 to complete a short sale or foreclosure. Starting January 1, 2013 any debt forgiven, even on a primary residence, will be treated as income by the IRS and subject to taxes. Do click here to read more about all that is related to the topic so that you can save your money while there is still time.

A homeowner doesn’t always control when the bank will take back a home or when the bank will complete the foreclosure transaction, so they cannot guarantee they’ll make the December 31 deadline.

A distressed homeowner does control to a greater extent the execution and timing of a short sale. While there is no guarantee the bank will agree to a short sale, or that the buyer will wait around long enough for the lender to agree, it is generally known the seller has more control over their fate in a short sale than a foreclosure.

Time is running out for many sellers as we have 11 ½ months to complete the short sale. Some short sales go smooth, and others are a bit trickier. Sometimes we have to sell it 2 or 3 times if buyers walk. The bank may respond right away, or it could take several months for the banks to complete their analysis depending on who the lender is, whether there is a 2nd mortgage or equity line involved, and especially if mortgage insurance is involved.

Most people just think the banks are slow, which is true. However, the process can be more complicated as the 1st lender may be due money back on certain losses by a private mortgage insurance company. This takes time for all to evaluate, and it must go in steps.

Some loans are guaranteed by FNMA or Freddie Mac, and there are governmental programs in place the lender must follow. A popular program you may have heard of is HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclsoures Alternative) Program. If the home falls under this program, certain procedures and timelines must be followed. Sometimes it takes time just to see if the loans qualify for this program. There are other programs as well.

This is why a seller should decide soon if they may need to sell their home due to hardship. The decision today could save thousands in taxes for years to come. Waiting too long could cost a seller big time.

A bankruptcy may be a solution to avoid such taxation after 2012, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see bankruptcies rise next year from sellers who miss this deadline.

The good news is lenders have beefed up their short sale department staffs the last few years and are equipped to handle more sales today than they were 5 years ago. We’ve had much success completing short sales, although the buyer must be educated that the bank will take some time, and they may counter the accepted price with the seller a bit higher.

No short sale is complete until the lender(s) sign off and everybody agrees to the terms. Short sales are a way to bring otherwise underwater overpriced property to the market at today’s lower prices. Education is the key for everyone involved. The agents involved, both buyer agent and seller agent must be competent in handling complex short sale transactions as both buyer and seller must be educated about the process.

Sales are already heating up this season, so 2012 could be an interesting ride. We’ll keep you posted on news affecting buyers and sellers in the SW Florida real estate market.

 

On April 17 rates are going up. How do we know the date? We know because that’s the date fees change under guidelines designed to attract private money into the lending system and reduce or eliminate FNMA, GNMA, and Freddie Mac, the three quasi-governmental agencies that insure mortgages and bundle them for securitization. They’re not really governmental, but they might as well be as the government has funded them until now. They are private companies that pay investors profit, but tax payer funded when they lose money, so something had to change.

Big Changes Coming in Mortgage Market

Big Changes Coming in Mortgage Market
Interest Rates Will Rise in April

So what is changing? First off, rates are going up. This will increase yields, which will attract banks, hedge funds, and other large sources of capital into the market. Large companies will actually compete to make more of this money. A lot of money has been bottled up sitting on the sidelines and this may be the conduit to free up that money.

When rates go up, home prices usually go down. Not so fast! In this case, prices could eventually rise. Many ask how this could be. The answer is complicated, but noteworthy, so we’ll do our best to explain.

Under the new guidelines guided by this resource from Wealthy You to get the best priced loans, borrowers will have to put more down. The old 20% down will now be 30% down. However, credit scores will also be lowered for qualifying. Imagine many of those people that sold via short sale being told they wouldn’t qualify by FNMA for 5 years. It turns out they may be eligible after just 12 months under certain conditions.

This source for a mortgage lending company in Kansas City KS says, while rates may go from 4 7/8% today to possibly 6.5% in April, more people will qualify. We still have FHA for low down payment options. Some people are predicting another real estate boom coming sooner than later nationwide as pent-up demand for housing intensifies, and more borrowers being eligible to purchase.

Imagine having a 540 credit score and being able to purchase a home. Those days may be coming again, if you can scrape together a down payment. Home prices are artificially too low in SW Florida and are in fact below replacement cost. This has caused multiple bidding situations for prestigious properties in short supply even in the upper price ranges in certain parts. Naples and Bonita have experienced a resurgence in prices, and many feel this is bleeding north up into Estero and Fort Myers. We are currently being driven by 2nd home buyers looking for deals.

As prices get closer to replacement cost, building will begin to pickup, which will bring jobs. As the SW Florida economy grows, the real estate market could gain traction very quickly, especially with Snow Birds and existing residents qualifying sooner than expected for their next mortgage.

Keep in mind 7,000-10,000 people are retiring or entering the social security income stream everyday. Florida stands to gain from the Baby Boom generation relocating or buying 2nd homes.

Many on Wall Street are anxious to cash in on the looming change to the capital markets coming in April. In fact, Wall St is waiting like a tiger to pounce. Some are predicting a feeding frenzy for housing and rapid price gains.

Some people believe the change to FNMA and Freddie Mac will damage the markets by increasing borrowing costs and raising down payment requirements. Others believe borrowing was next to impossible anyway the last few years and banks only lent to those who really didn’t need it. I don’t know who is right, but I will say if we open the door for more people to buy, the market could recover quicker than most expect.

2011 could really be a year to watch and keep an eye on the financing markets. If Wall Street gets greedy like last time, it could be a boom for real estate. The difference is, FNMA and Freddie Mac, and the US taxpayer won’t bail out bad loans, only systemic losses due to financial meltdowns. Hopefully we’ll enjoy the next boom with no meltdown, and higher down payments will help with that. If our markets stabilize like we think they will, even low down payments won’t affect the market because the market won’t be in freefall, and we’ll be adding jobs to the economy versus losing 8 million like we’ve done the past 3 years.

Bottom line, keep an eye out for sunny days ahead in the real estate market and we just might see them sooner rather than later. And mark your calendars for April 17. This will be the beginning of something. Time will judge the ending.

This is the time of year agents are busy selling properties.  If you look at the last two years, historically you will see that sales begin to build each month heading into summer.  The last two years are fairly typical as to how our local market works.  April and May closed sales are results of deals put together in March.  There is typically about a one month lag from contract to closing.  Some closings occur in the same month, and some take longer, especially short sales. 

We think everyone who possibly can buy is attempting to right now for several reasons.  Interest rates are headed higher.  The Treasury Department’s phase-out of buying mortgage backed securities on FNMA and Freddie Mac expires this month.  The last time this happened rates shot up about ¾% in a week or so, so we’re keeping our eye on rates in April and what if anything the government does when they shoot back up. 

We also have the Home Buyer tax credit in place for sales through April 30.  Buyers have a few months after that to actually close these sales, but essentially it allows first time home buyers a credit of up to $8,000 and repeat home buyers a credit up to $6,500.  This is real money, and buyers are acting to receive this money. 

Single Family Home Sales by Month Lee County Florida
Single Family Home Sales by Month Lee County Florida

Additionally, inventory in certain price ranges is drying up, and prices are low.  Buyers from near and far and reaching to scoop up these bargains.  Because these homes are so far below replacement cost, these prices won’t last once the economy improves and builders start building again.  Many of these homes are 40-50% below cost, so there’s a built-in profit for buyers willing to buy now and hold until market improves. 

We know why the market is Hot, but let’s go behind the scenes and explain some things that are affecting the market many people might not know about.   The first major obstacle is appraisals.  Appraisals have been coming up short up to 30% of the time as appraisers not familiar with the neighborhoods are using comparables that are not the best for the subject property.  They are not taking the time to discern if the two neighborhoods are similar, or if the comparables condition is similar.  We’ve seen appraisers use comparables from other neighborhoods that just don’t measure up while ignoring a good comp 2 doors down that closed last week.  We’ve also seen appraisers only use the foreclosures, but they don’t tell the whole picture.  The foreclosures can need lots of work and be in poor condition, and if the appraiser wants to use them as a comp, they need to research its actual condition when property sold. 

The next big issue is we often have multiple offers on each property, and buyers are bidding against each other.  Cash is king, and buyers wishing to finance have a hard time competing with cash buyers.  The seller doesn’t have to worry whether the buyer will get financing when a cash buyer is involved, nor worry about a bad appraisal.  Many of these properties are selling well over asking price, and many buyers are frustrated no matter what they do they can’t land a property.

We also have out of town buyers who believe they can bargain down these homes, and wonder why they lose home after home when the sellers accept someone else’s offer.  Many buyers have said they don’t pay full sticker price, and yet they’re downright frustrated when the seller accepts another buyer’s offer.  Agents I speak with say they are educating buyers right upfront about our market, but buyers often times have to try for themselves.  A buyer can find out the hard way and miss out on their first 6 choices or take their agent’s advice and have a chance at getting choices 1-3.  Even if you offer $10,000 over asking price all cash, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the home, but at least your chances are better.  It pays to study each submarket and determine how each home fits in that puzzle. 

Lastly, title can be an issue.  If you’re buying a foreclosed home, it’s not uncommon for a title issue to creep up and extend the closing out.  Banks don’t always complete the full title process until a contract is secured, and that’s when it could be discovered some outstanding liens, or homeowner associations trying to collect more than the law allows to issue an estoppel letter.  We’ve even experienced a home that needed to be re-foreclosed as it wasn’t done properly the first time. 

If our market wasn’t so challenging, we’d see even higher sales reported.  This market is more complex than ever, but at least it keeps people on their toes and moving.  That’s often little solace to those caught up in a deal when things are going wrong, but I guess it beats having a dead market.  There’s nothing dead about the SW Florida real estate market.