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Showing posts from April, 2008

Why housing is cyclical

By Marcie Geffner -

It's no secret that the U.S. housing market is cyclical and in the midst of yet another painful correction. The causes and characteristics of these cycles vary, at least in some respects, but the implications for homebuyers, home sellers and homeowners remain remarkably reliable as the cycles roll by.

Housing cycles aren't all alike, yet over long periods of time a basic pattern can be discerned, says Mark Dotzour, chief economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.

A cycle doesn't really have a start or a stop, but to pick a point at random, we might say that a housing cycle "starts" when economic activity heats up and interest rates rise. Higher interest rates make housing less affordable, so demand decreases and home prices fall.

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Making sense of house prices

By Marcie Geffner –

It’s no secret that home prices have declined in many U.S. towns and cities. Indeed, the downward trend has been the subject of numerous newspaper headlines, not to mention plenty of cocktail party small talk, water-cooler chitchat and neighborhood gossip.

Yet home prices aren’t just a subject of idle conversation. If you want to buy a home, prices determine which homes you can afford. Or if you already own a home, your home’s value affects whether you can refinance your mortgage, take out a home equity loan or line of credit, or stop paying for mortgage insurance.

Equity is king
Your home’s value is a component of your equity, which is the difference between the value and the amount you owe, often expressed as a percentage. For example, if you borrowed $270,000 to buy a $300,000 home, your equity at the time of purchase would be $30,000, or 10 percent. If the value of your home dropped, your equity would shrink as well. The more equity you have, the ea…

Foreclosure crisis hits rental housing

By Marcie Geffner -

It's no secret that the nation's subprime mortgage meltdown, spike in foreclosures and fall in home prices have affected legions of homebuyers, home sellers and homeowners. But what may be surprising is that the turmoil in today's U.S. housing markets has important implications for renters as well.

"There is some pickup in demand, but there is also a pickup in supply -- both new apartments that are being built and also units shifting from owner to renter," says Mark Obrinsky, chief economist of the National Multi Housing Council, or NMHC, an apartment industry trade group.

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Downpayment Assistance Should Be Ended, Not Mended

Marcie Geffner - Inman News

When all else fails, why not sue the federal government?

That's the card Nehemiah Corp. and AmeriDream have played, perhaps to defend their very existence as two of the largest downpayment assistance organizations in the United States. Yet while these organizations and their 180-plus brethren have helped many people buy a home, their business model has been suspect since the start and today's weakened housing markets would be better off without their inflationary intervention.

Downpayment assistance programs funnel "donations" from builders and home sellers to buyers, who use the "gifts" as all or part of their downpayment. The amount of money at stake isn't nominal: AmeriDream alone has given more than $726 million, in chunks of $3,600 on average, to more than 200,000 home buyers since 1999, according to the lawsuit.

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Documents are new reality for borrowers

By Marcie Geffner -

If you recently applied for a new home loan, you might be surprised at the large number of documents your lender will expect you to hand over before your loan is approved.

In 2005, 2006 and 2007, many mortgages required only limited documentation. But today, lenders have begun to reinstate traditional "full doc" requirements. The fact is that lenders have become pickier about who can qualify for a loan, and more documentation is part of that trend. Even if you submitted very few documents when you obtained your current mortgage, you’ll likely be asked for a stack of documents if you want to refinance now.

Documentation isn’t just paperwork. Lenders actually use your documents to verify the information on your loan application and make an assessment of your financial situation. Some of the documents you’ll be asked for include W-2 forms and paycheck stubs. These show that you earn enough income to make the payments on your new mortgage.

If you’…

Borrowers flock to FHA loans

By Marcie Geffner -

FHA loans, which are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), are enjoying a resurgence in today’s tighter lending climate.

FHA loans have been out of favor in recent years, but are especially popular today because they typically have easier qualification requirements than non-governmental loans and require only a small down payment or very little equity. An FHA loan also may have a lower interest rate than would be offered on a comparable loan that wasn’t backed by the U.S. government.

What is the FHA?
The FHA doesn’t actually make loans. Instead, this agency offers a guarantee that reimburses your lender if you don’t pay back your loan. You’ll have to pay small upfront and monthly fees for that protection, but a lower interest rate might offset the extra expense.

An FHA loan can be used to buy a home or refinance an existing mortgage. Traditionally, the agency has been seen as an alternative for lower-income borrowers or borrowers with shaky…

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