Tag Archives: Mortgage Rates


Housing Crisis to End in 2012 as Banks Loosen Credit Standards

By: Krista Franks Brock, DSNews.com

Capital Economics expects the housing crisis to end this year, according to a report released Tuesday. One of the reasons: loosening credit.

The analytics firm notes the average credit score required to attain a mortgage loan is 700. While this is higher than scores required prior to the crisis, it is constant with requirements one year ago. Additionally, a Fed Senior Loan Officer Survey found credit requirements in the fourth quarter were consistent with the past three quarters. However, other market indicators point not just to a stabilization of mortgage lending standards, but also a loosening of credit availability.

Banks are now lending amounts up to 3.5 times borrower earnings. This is up from a low during the crisis of 3.2 times borrower earnings. Banks are also loosening loan-to-value ratios (LTV), which Capital Economics denotes “the clearest sign yet of an improvement in mortgage credit conditions.” In contrast to a low of 74 percent reached in mid-2010, banks are now lending at 82 percent LTV.

While credit conditions may have loosened slightly, some potential homebuyers are still struggling with credit requirements. In fact, Capital Economics points out that in November 8 percent of contract cancellations were the result of a potential buyer not qualifying for a loan.

Additionally, Capital Economics says “any improvement in credit conditions won’t be significant enough to generate actual house price gains,” and potential ramifications from the euro-zone pose a threat to future credit availability.


Big Four Set to Participate in HARP 2.0

The industry’s four largest mortgage servicers all say they will be taking part in the revamped Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo have each expressed their support of the program and the changes that will allow more underwater homeowners to refinance at today’s lower interest rates.
Government officials expect the program’s revisions – particularly the GSEs’ waiver on representations and warranties – to increase competition for mortgage refinancing.

An executive with JPMorgan Chase told the company’s investors this week that HARP 2.0 will facilitate “cross-servicing refinancing” because with the rep and warranty waiver, the new lender is not required to assume responsibility for underwriting deficiencies that may have occurred with the original loan.

Chase explains that HARP may be used to replace an adjustable-rate or interest-only loan with a standard fixed interest rate loan, and typically reduces the borrower’s monthly payment.

Frank Bisignano, CEO of mortgage banking at Chase, estimates that with the new HARP guidelines, thousands of Chase customers could lower their mortgage payments by an average of $2,500 a year.

Citi said in an emailed statement that it “supports the program and expects to participate.”
Wells Fargo, likewise, said in a statement that it “welcomes the addition of the new HARP features.”
Veronica Clemons, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, says the company is waiting for specific guidelines and requirements from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in order to put the changes into practice.

She adds that once the company’s mortgage servicing team has the guidelines in hand, “it will take us some time – depending on the complexity of the guidelines – to make the necessary systems changes to begin offering the new enhancements to our customers.”

The GSEs’ regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), says Fannie and Freddie plan to issue guidance with operational details about the HARP changes by November 15th.

“Since industry participation in HARP is not mandatory, implementation schedules will vary as individual lenders, mortgage insurers, and other market participants modify their processes,” FHFA said.

Bank of America says it will participate in the enhanced Home Affordable Refinance Program announced by the administration, and it expects the new guidelines and eligibility criteria to go into effect after December 1st.
“Despite ongoing economic challenges, nearly 90 percent of our customers remain current on their mortgage,” BofA spokesperson Rick Simon said. “HARP helps these homeowners who remain current on their mortgage with options to lower their monthly payment when, otherwise, conventional funding options are limited.”

The GSEs have removed the 125 percent loan-to-value (LTV) cap under the program. Now any borrower with an LTV ratio above 80 percent is eligible for a HARP refinance, as long as the loan was sold to Fannie or Freddie prior to May 31, 2009, and the borrower is not delinquent on their payments.

Since HARP was launched in 2009, nearly 900,000 loans have been refinanced through the program. Government officials estimate that an additional 1 million homeowners will receive assistance under the new guidelines.
In its announcement of the program changes, FHFA encouraged borrowers to “contact their existing lender or any other mortgage lender offering HARP refinances.”

Article from DSnews.com.


Administration Announces Refinance Program for Underwater Borrowers

It’s official. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) unveiled a new, revamped government mortgage refinancing program Monday.

The initiative involves a series of rule changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to allow more underwater homeowners to reduce their mortgage debt by taking advantage of today’s rock-bottom interest rates.
Mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and originally sold to the GSEs on or before May 31, 2009 are eligible for the program.

Under the revised HARP guidelines, the 125 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ceiling has been eliminated. Previously, only borrowers who owed up to 25 percent more than their home was worth could participate in HARP. That limitation has now been removed. The program will continue to be available to borrowers with LTV ratios above 80 percent.

The new program enhancements address several other key aspects of HARP that industry participants say have restricted its impact, including eliminating certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term mortgages and lowering fees for other borrowers, as well as allowing mortgage insurers to automatically transfer coverage from the original loan to the new loan.

In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have done away with the requirement for a new property appraisal where there is a reliable AVM (automated valuation model) estimate already provided by the GSEs, and they’ve agreed to waive certain representations and warranties on loans refinanced through the program.

Not only are loans eligible for HARP considered “seasoned loans,” but a refinance helps borrowers strengthen their household finances, reducing the risk they pose to the GSEs. Thus, FHFA feels reps and warranties are not necessary for some of these loans.

With Monday’s announcement, the end date for HARP has been extended from June 30, 2012 to December 31, 2013.
The GSEs will release program instructions to lenders by the middle of next month, and FHFA expects some lenders will be ready to accept applications by December 1.

Since HARP was rolled out in early 2009, approximately 1 million homeowners have refinanced their mortgage loans through the program. FHFA estimates that with the revised guidelines, another 1 million will be able to take advantage of the program.

To qualify, borrowers must be current on their mortgage payments, but government officials believe by opening HARP up to more homeowners with higher thresholds of negative equity, it will help to prevent foreclosures by erasing the primary motivation behind strategic defaults.

Economists at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business estimate that roughly 35 percent of mortgage defaults are strategic. Numerous industry studies have found that homeowners who owe significantly more than their home is worth are more likely to throw in the towel and walk away from their mortgage debt even if they have the ability to continue making their payments.

“We anticipate that the package of improvements being made to HARP will reduce the Enterprises credit risk, bring greater stability to mortgage markets, and reduce foreclosure risks,” FHFA stated in its announcement Monday.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also released statements in response to the announcement.

Michael J. Williams, Fannie Mae’s president and CEO, called the program a “welcome development.”
“By removing some of the impediments to refinance, lenders can more easily participate in the program allowing more eligible homeowners to take advantage of the low interest rates,” Williams stated.

Charles E. Haldeman, Jr., CEO of Freddie Mac said, “These changes mark another step on the road to recovery for the nation’s housing market.”

Article is from DSnews.com.