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January 2010
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Which Way Will Mortgage Rates Go?

Mortgage interest rates continue to hover around the 5% mark. Conforming, FHA and VA mortgage rates all continue to be reported in the low 5 percent range for home loans and mortgage-refinancing. There have been positive signs in the last quarter regarding job losses, the financial markets and even the housing sector, but economic recovery is likely still a few months away, Freddie Mac’s chief economist said today. In an article titled, “Are We There Yet?” the outlook from Freddie Mac’s Frank E. Nothaft for 2010 is mostly positive, although there are cautionary flags ahead – particularly with higher mortgage interest rates and the expiration of home-buyer tax credits.

Most economists will be looking at the aftermath from the government’s winding down of its purchases of mortgage loan backed securities from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. By discontinuing its purchase program in April, the central bank is hoping that private buyers of mortgage-backed securities will return, and rates won’t rise much after that. Investors in mortgaged-backed securities have stayed mostly on the sidelines. “U.S. Department of the Treasury MBS purchases were completed by year-end, and Federal Reserve purchases of MBS and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae debt are scheduled to terminate by the end of the first quarter 2010 – both potentially pose the risk of a rise in mortgage rates relative to benchmark yields,” Nothaft said.

Another potential strain on interest rates is the expiration of tax credits for home buyers. Under the federal program, home purchase contracts must be signed by April 30 to qualify for the tax credits. “The tax credits have likely caused some families to purchase a home earlier than they might have otherwise, thus moving sales forward in time and helping support the housing market. High affordability and improved buyer sentiment further bolster sales,” Nothaft wrote.

So when will we get there? “While there may be some bumps along the way, the transition into economic recovery appears to be underway as we head into 2010: real economic growth in the 3 to 3.5 percent range, a cessation of job losses in the first quarter, rising home sales, and a strengthening of housing starts in some markets,” Nothaft wrote “We should be ‘there’ in the next few months, if not already.” Read the original article online.

Mortgage Rates Inch Up

Mortgage interest rates continue to teeter the monumental 5% mark and the demand for mortgage refinancing continues to rise. One problem for most loan applicants is that they do not qualify because conventional and FHA mortgage guidelines have tightened to the point that only a small percentage of borrowers qualify for home refinancing or new home loans. The financial crisis and Great Recession have their roots in the housing bust. When it comes, a lasting recovery will be evident in a housing rebound. Unfortunately, housing appears to be weakening anew.

Housing figures released last week show that after four months of gains, home prices flattened in October. At that time, low current mortgage rates courtesy of the Federal Reserve and a home buyer’s tax credit (courtesy of Congress) were fueling sales. That should have propped up prices. But it was not enough to overcome the drag created by a glut of 3.2 million new and existing unsold single-family homes — about a seven-month supply.

The situation, we fear, will only get worse in months to come. Rates already are starting to rise as lenders brace for the Fed to curtail support for mortgage lending as early as the end of March. The home buyer’s tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of April. And a new flood of foreclosed homes is ready to hit the market. It is increasingly clear that the Obama administration’s anti-foreclosure effort which pressed mortgage lenders to reduce interest rates — isn’t doing nearly enough. High unemployment rates also mean that many borrowers who did qualify for aid have been unable to keep up with even reduced monthly payments.