Posts Tagged ‘Mortgage’

Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction – Goodbye

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I am expecting that one of the major tax breaks in the nation will be hit by our elected representatives once they get back to running the Country (After the Fall elections).

Our dangerous levels of Public Debt are going to have to be dealt with and The Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction is an obvious and inevitable target.

Even as I type this I can hear the screams of “No Way” they’d never dare touch it.

Having lived through the British “phase out” of mortgage tax relief, and observed it’s results, I am convinced that this unfair tax break will soon join the Dodo, and our society will be the better for it’s going; Indeed, the process has already started, as limits on the total dollar amounts, and number of properties eligible have already been implemented over the past few years. Not all at one go, but little by little, so that in a few years it will, just like the smile on the face of the “Cheshire Cat,”  have totally faded away.

What we currently tell our taxpayers is that if they agree to take on one particular type of debt ( a mortgage) we will lower their taxes. If not we will have to increase their income taxes to make up for what we are losing to their more affluent fellow citizens i.e. Mortgage holders.

Is it good to have a high level of home ownership YES. Should it be done by this type of Social Engineering (Socialism) NO.

Could it be posible that one or more of our currently troubled States might be the 1st to take this path?? Perhaps the one that put in that other masterpiece of tax malpractice, Prop 13.

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Politician Attacks 1st Time Buyers

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Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA35] recently introduced H.R. 5072,The FHA Reform Act of 2010 which would impose hugely increased monthly payments on anyone buying a home with an FHA insured loan. This is a large majority of all 1st Time Buyers.

Already, effective from April 5th, the upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium was increased from 1.75% to 2.25%, (a 29% increase).

Now, in a further attack on the 1st Time Buyer, this misguided lady proposes a 300% increase on the ongoing monthly Mortgage Insurance payment.

To understand the impact of this consider a new $300,000 purchase with a 30 year fixed FHA loan.at 5.5% interest rate. The monthly payment will go from $1,804 up to $2,051. An increase of 12%.

Put another way; If the maximum you could qualify for was $300,000 before, it would now be only $270,000.

At one fell stroke this bill would eliminate an enormous number of willing buyers at the bottom end of the market.

When you consider that each 1st Time Buyer potentially creates a move up Buyer we can’t afford  this kind of interference in this very fragile recovery.

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Mortgage Credit Cerificates (MCC)

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Here is another dynamite program for 1st time home buyers.

Details here are for Santa Clara County but other Counties and Cities also operatate these programs.

The County of Santa Clara has been awarded a new MCC Allocation in the amount of $3,031,944.

This award should serve approximately 70 Households.

MCC Applications will be accepted beginning February 12, 2010, until the allocation is depleted.

MCC PROGRAM: The Mortgage Credit Certificate Program is available for first-time home-buyer’s purchasing their first home in participating cities in Santa Clara County. The Mortgage Credit Certificate Program gives first-time home-buyer’s a federal income tax credit of up to 15% of the interest paid on their first mortgage loan each year the home-buyer keeps the same mortgage loan and lives in the same property as their primary residence.

The Maximum Income Limits for 2010:

Effective February 12, 2010:

1 or 2 person household = $102,500

3 or more person household = $117,875

The Maximum Purchase Price Limits are:

Resale/Existing Units = $570,000 and for,

Newly Constructed Units= $630,000

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Reality vs. Partisan Pundits. No Contest

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The Administrations well meant efforts to make it possible for many homeowners to avoid foreclosure has stirred up a hornet’s nest among some media commentators.

The Plan described at http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/ uses up to $75 billion to provide incentives to holders of FANIE MAE and FREDDY MAC loans to work with Borrowers to refinance, or modify existing problem loans, rather than simply go ahead and foreclose.

This is a classic version of the glass ½ full, or ½ empty. Typically, in our current exclusively partisan media, the answer is dictated solely by political affiliation regardless of the facts.

This is unfortunate because there are legitimate reasons for supporting, opposing, or, better still, improving the current process.

One the one hand it is a legitimate effort to try to help Joe Public get through a situation brought about by failures in our economic systems. Given the Trillions of dollars being ploughed back to the very people who caused this situation, the $75 Billion allocated to this program is peanuts.

On the other hand there is a valid argument to be made that subsidizing refinances, or modifying problem loans, is simply putting off an inevitable final default. This can often hurt the very people it purports to help by having them use up scarce funds in a doomed attempt to save an impossible situation, rather than simply give the property back to the Lender and getting  on with life.

The December report on the status of this program provides ample ammunition for both schools of thought, and the regulators have shifted emphasis to try to deal with the problems showing up.

The summary shows that 728,000 loan modifications are already in the required trial phase. Unfortunately only 31,382 have completed that phase and have become permanent, saving homeowners an average of $550 per month. The low rate at which Trials become Permanent  is a serious problem raising concerns that a significant number of these modifications are simply allowing the Banks to delay acknowledging the number of bad loans on their books and to avoid taking the losses on to their Balance Sheets.

If that is true then the inevitable result will be a longer period of foreclosed properties coming to market as these failed modifications fall apart.

As with most things there is not a simple answer, but on balance I come down on the side of giving the program a fair shot. This is based mostly on my view that given the countless billions we have poured into supporting the financial institutions that caused the problems,  a little effort to give similar assistance to the victims is not unreasonable.

How To Refinance

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This is a great time to refinance into a long term fixed rate mortgage, but it’s not always obvious how to do it in order to ensure the best combination of interest rate and costs, specifically Points. 
For example, the lowest rate is not automatically the best deal. This depends greatly on how long you plan to stay in the property.
My rule of thumb is if you expect to be moving within 5 years go for the lowest cost you can get and accept a higher rate for that short period.
If you expect to live there for more than 5 years pay some of the costs up front in order to get the lowest rate for many more years.
Next, take your preferred strategy to 4 different possible Lenders:
1. Your current Lender.
2. A local Credit Union.
3. A good Mortgage Broker.
4. A Major retail Bank i.e. BofA etc.
Ask each to give you a quote based on your situation. If you are not asked how long you plan to stay  in your  house get up, walk away, and go look for a professional.
One more thought. If tempted by an online or other mortgage advert, good luck, but be wary of the very common bait and Switch tactics often used in this business.
And last but not least, be aware that APR is a very flexible statistic which can be manipulated and interpreted in numerous ways. It is not a valid way to sellect a mortgage.

Praise Where It’s Due

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A small but very welcome glow of sanity from a historically well run Bank.

After acquiring $117.3 billion dollars worth of option adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) in its acquisition of Wachovia last year, banking giant Wells Fargo is now practicing a rare but effective loan modification strategy: the cramdown.

Through September of this year, Wells Fargo has forgiven an average of $46,000 on approximately 43,500 high-risk loans in its portfolio. The typical debt reduction is around 20% of the loan principal, though in rare cases Wells Fargo has cut as much as 30%. Reports put the six-month default rate of loans modified by Wells Fargo at 15-20%, less than half the current rate of 40% suffered by the rest of industry’s extend-and-pretend modifications.

Debt reduction is only one of many tools Wells Fargo is using to aid its distressed borrowers, and is currently not being used as a blanket fix for all underwater homeowners.

My Opinion: While this is a national story and certainly only a very small slice of the current problem pie, a mortgage lender taking into account the need for principal reduction is a big acknowledgement that the underwater state of many homeowners’ mortgages require this type of treatment. This is something other lenders and Congress need to understand when considering the mortgage quandary. Continuing to “kick the can down the road” with “extend and pretend” modifications will do nothing to solve the massive negative equity problem. The fact that the small glimmers of hope — in the form of cramdowns — are coming from a lender and not the regulators really speaks to the hands-tied, head-buried-in-the-sand mentality which must be overcome if we are to move ahead with a recovery.

Re: Wells Fargo Cuts as Much as 30 Percent in Principal from the Wall Street Journal

Here’s The Good News

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These days when every mass media empty suit is competing to see who can spread the most gloom and doom let me point out one very positive outcome of all this, especially for the Real Estate Market.

It’s great for mortgage interest rates. When stock markets go down it’s because a lot of people are selling. Where do you think they put the money received from the sales?

How about the traditional safe haven BONDS? This drives up the prices on Bonds.

When Bond prices go up, interest rates go down. That is exactly what happened yesterday when we saw 2 reductions and modified rate sheets during one day.

If your mortgage was in process you might have received a call late yesterday to discuss locking in the interest rate.