Getting a home loan can be a challenging process, and a finicky one. Qualifying can be challenging and once a buyer gets approved, it can be surprisingly easy to derail the process. Here are some mistakes to be avoided:
Not Pre-Checking Credit
Once a borrower makes his application for a mortgage, his fate is largely sealed. One way to increase the chance of qualifying for a home loan is for a borrower to check his credit before applying. That way, he can address any issues before they become problems for the lender.
Lenders judge borrowers on their ability to repay the loan. While a borrower’s credit rating is a good indicator of past performance, his current job and income provides some assurances that he can make his payments.
Changing jobs or losing a job interrupts the income, and can make a lender decide not to lend to that borrower.
Taking On New Debt
New debt can derail a mortgage in two ways. First, adding debt can lower credit scores from the inquiry that comes as well as worry lenders. Second, new debt increases monthly payments, which lower the amount that a borrower can take out on a home loan due to the limitations imposed by the lender’s debt to income ratio.
Fudging The Numbers
Some borrowers might be tempted to tweak some of the numbers on their mortgage applications to make them more attractive to the lender, but lying on a mortgage application is a very bad idea.
First, lenders investigate what gets entered and they’re likely to catch it. Second, it is also fraud and could leave the borrower subject to prosecution.
In general, people considering a home loan should remember the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take. Its message — do no harm — is a good rule of thumb for applying for a mortgage.
Applicants that keep their financial status the same throughout the process without making any changes are more likely to emerge at the end with their new home and their original loan.
Two major indicators of home price trends showed a slowing momentum for home prices in December. The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20 city indices reported that of 20 cities tracked, home prices were lower in December than for November.
Case-Shiller’s seasonally adjusted month-to month reading showed that home prices rose by 0.8 percent as compared to 0.90 percent in November.
David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that “Gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of home price recovery may be over.” He also noted that seasonally adjusted data was showing a loss of momentum for home prices.
December home prices posted a year-over-year gain of 13.40 percent, down from November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. December’s reading reflected the highest year-over-year increase in home prices since 2005.
Analysts note that a slower pace of increasing home prices may allow more buyers to enter the market, and may also encourage more buyers to list their properties for sale.
This would increase inventories of available homes and relieve pent-up demand for homes. Although home price growth is cooling off, average home prices remain 20 percent below their pre-recession peak in 2006.
Home Prices Face Challenges In 2014
Another factor in slower growth of home prices is regional differences in the rate of economic recovery. Cities including Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado recently set records for escalating home prices.
Five states including Florida and Michigan accounted for almost half of foreclosures completed during 2013. Slow job growth and poor winter weather were also blamed for slower gains in home prices.
New mortgage rules and relatively strict mortgage lending standards may continue to dampen housing markets, but there is some good news as some lenders are easing credit standards.
FHFA: Home Prices Higher For 10th Consecutive Quarter
The Federal Housing Finance Administration reported similar trends in December home price data for properties either financed or owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Home prices rose by a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading.
Home prices were 7.70 percent higher for the fourth quarter of 2013 than for the same period in 2012. Adjusted for inflation, this reading indicates an approximate year-over-year increase of 7 percent.
FHFA reported higher readings for 38 states in its fourth quarter 2013 Home Price Index, as compared with 48 states in in the third quarter of 2013. In order of home price appreciation, the top five states with highest growth in home prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon and Florida.
These calculations were seasonally adjusted and based on home purchases only.
A mortgage pre-qualification is an initial estimate of what type of mortgage a borrower could get. It is limited, though, because it’s only based on what the borrower tells the lender, which might not be the same as what the lender finds out when it goes through a full process of analyzing the borrower and his credit.
Steps Of A Pre-Qualification
To get pre-qualified, a borrower starts by finding a lender. Typically, he will give the lender basic information on his ability to borrow. This includes his income, how much money he has in the bank, his current payments and an estimate of his credit worthiness.
The lender takes the pre-qualification information that he gets and compares it to the loan programs of which he is aware. For instance, if he knows that a borrower doesn’t have a lot to put down, but the borrower mentions that he’s active-duty military, the mortgage broker might offer a VA loan as an option.
Based on the programs he sees and the information the broker gets from the borrower, he will tell the borrower what kind of mortgage to expect. Typically, this gives the borrower a sense of the likely rate and of the amount he can borrow. Generally, this is enough to let a borrower start looking at listings with a realistic sense of what will be affordable.
Mortgage Pre-Qualifications And Pre-approvals
When it comes time to start writing offers, though, a mortgage pre-qualification might not be enough. A pre-qualification is missing one important factor — underwriting the borrower’s income and credit. When a borrower goes beyond a pre-qualification to get a mortgage pre-approval, he submits his credit for the lender to check.
That way, his qualifications get confirmed and the lender can issue a more binding letter that not only lets him know what he can afford but also lets him show a seller that he is truly qualified to get a loan. With that letter, his offer may be viewed as stronger and he can be more likely to get the ability to buy the house he wants.
Last week’s economic news was mixed, with new home sales increasing and weekly jobless claims higher than expected.
Case-Shiller and FHFA home price reports reflected slower growth in home prices. Mortgage rates moved higher for the third consecutive week.
Weakness in the jobs sector and harsh winter weather were seen as factors contributing to economic events, but sales of new homes jumped unexpectedly to their highest since 2008.
Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slower Growth for Home Prices
The Case-Shiller composite home price index for December reported that home prices declined by 0.10 percent in December, which was the second consecutive monthly decline.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, home prices rose 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading of 0.90 percent. Year-over-year, home prices grew at a rate of 13.40 percent, their fastest pace since 2005.
The momentum of year-over-year home prices declined in December as compared to November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. 11 of 20 cities included in the Case-Shiller composite index declined.
Analysts said that low inventories of available homes, higher mortgage rates and severe winter weather contributed to slower growth in home prices.
FHFA’s quarterly House Price Index for the fourth quarter of 2013 posted its tenth consecutive gain in quarterly home prices. Seasonally adjusted home prices rose by 0.80 percent from November to December 2013.
FHFA, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices increased by 7.70 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the same period in 2013. Adjusted for inflation, the agency reported a year-over-year increase of 7.0 percent.
FHFA House Price Index data is based on sales information for homes with mortgages held or securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Fixed Mortgage Rates, New and Pending Home Sales Rise
Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed-rate mortgages rose last week, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising 4 basis points to 4.37 percent.
The rate for a 15-year mortgage also increased by 4 basis points to 3.39 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 3 basis points to 3.05 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.7 0 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
Weekly jobless claims also rose to 348,000 against projections for 335,000 new jobless claims. The four-week average for new jobless claims remained steady at 338,250.
The Department of Labor noted that weekly readings are more volatile than the four -week average reading. Poor winter weather and a softer labor market were cited as possible causes for the jump in new claims.
New home sales provided unexpected good news; they jumped by 9.60 percent in January, to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 468,000 sales against expected sales of 405,000.
December’s reading was upwardly revised from 414,000 to 427,000 new homes sold.
January’s reading was the largest increase in new home sales since July 2008, and there may be more positive housing news ahead as builders said that some of the sales lost during winter months may be recouped during spring.
Pending home sales increased by 0.10 percent in January to an index reading of 95 as compared to December’s reading of 94.9, which was the lowest reading since November 2011.
What‘s Coming Up
This week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending, the Federal Reserve’s beige book report, weekly jobless claims, and Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates.
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls and National Unemployment reports for February.