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The Relative Cost Of Owning Versus Renting Is Back At Historical Norms

The cost of owning a home versus renting one is returning to historical levelsOne popular housing theory is that -- before a bona fide housing recovery can begin --thecost of owning a home versus renting one must return to historical levels.

If that belief is a truth, a national return to rising home prices may be in store for 2009.

Falling home prices coupled with falling mortgage rates, too, have dropped the relative, after-tax cost of owning a home to 125% of the cost of renting a home.

This is the exact 18-year historical average and not since 2001 has the gap been this small.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, though, the study has some flaws. For example, the data doesn't account for ongoing home maintenance costs, nor does it consider real estate tax bills and insurance policies.

But, combining a relatively low cost of ownership with the government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers is likely to convert long-time renters into never-before homeowners.

This, too, is thought to be a key element of the housing recovery.

In many markets (but not all), home prices are expected to edge lower through 2009. Provided mortgage rates stay low, thecost gap between owning and renting will shrink even more.

(Image courtesy: Wall Street Journal)


2009 Conforming Loan Limits Return To $729,750 In High-Cost Areas

2009 conforming loan limits are back to 729,750 in high-cost areas

Everything old is new again.

Conforming mortgages are limited by loan size, based on "typical" housing costs around the country. The current conforming limit on a single-unit property is $417,000.

In 2008, as part of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, Congress authorized conforming loan limits increases in "high-cost" areas around the country. In Los Angeles County, for example, a mortgage could be as large as $729,750 and still be considered "conforming".

Those temporary increases rolled back effective January 1, 2009, to a maximum of $625,500.

However, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law this week, conforming loan limits in high-cost areas have been returned to their elevated levels of 2008.

You can see the text on the bottom of page 111 of 407.

Changes to conforming loan limits impact everyone with a stake in real estate, even if their neighborhoods are not considered "high-cost". This is because conforming mortgages offer the widest selection of home loan products, and often at the lowest rates. The widespread availability of conforming mortgages helps to support home sales nationwide as well as providing ample refinancing options for people that need it.

Lenders have yet to pick up the change, but are expected to shortly. Once they do, more homeowners will be eligible for cheap home financing.

To lookup your neighborhood's conforming loan limits, visit the HUD Web site. Or, if you have specific questions related to your home or an upcoming purchase, contact me directly anytime.


New Fannie Mae Loan Fees Target Condo Buyers, Among Others

Fannie Mae LLPAs are increasing, effective April 1 2009When conforming mortgages started defaulting en masse in late-2007, mortgage guarantor Fannie Mae created a loss-offsetting, fee-generating scheme dubbed "loan-level pricing adjustments".

The concept was basic: For mortgage applicants with high-risk profiles, collect up-front payments to offset potential long-term losses.

Similar to the auto insurance model in which younger drivers pay higher premiums, the riskier the applicant, the higher the fee.

At the inception of the program, Fannie Mae defined"risk" as a combination of borrower credit score and home equity percentage.In general, lower FICOs and higher LTVs paid more costs.

Effective April 1, however,Fannie Mae's definition of risk is expanded. Bya lot. Fannie Mae's new loan-level fees now impact any conforming mortgage that meets any of the following criteria, with the exception of fixed rate loans of 15 years or less.

  • Up to 0.75% fee: Secured by a condo/co-op with less than 25% equity
  • Up to 0.50% fee: Features a junior mortgage (i.e. HELOC, HELOAN)
  • Up to 1.00% fee: Features interest only payment options
  • Up to 1.00% fee: Secured to a 2-unit property
  • Up to 3.00% fee: Is designated as "cash out"

Each 1 percent in fees equals 1 percent of the borrowed amount.Therefore,a condo buyer with a $200,000 first mortgage and a $25,000 line of credit is subject to a mandatory 1.25% charge of $2,500, due at closing.

However, it doesn't stop there. Fannie Mae has also adjusted its original FICO-LTV matrix so that nearly every applicant -- irrespective of credit score -- will face higher closing costs on their home loan.

Mortgage rates may be falling, but the cost of financing a home is rising.

Fannie Mae's latest announcement is its fifth risk-based pricing update in the last 15 months. It's likely it won't be the last, either. Therefore, if you're torn between to buy a home now or later, consider that the cost of waiting may outweigh the benefits of falling prices or falling rates.


It's 2009 : Mortgage Loan Limits Fall As Scheduled In "High-Cost" American Cities

The 2009 Conforming Loan Limits, effective January 1, 2009

As part of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, Congress authorized a conforming loan limit increase in "high-cost" areas around the country. Versus the national conforming loan limit of $417,000, for example, a Manhattan home buyer could secure a 2008 mortgage for $725,000 and still be within "conforming" guidelines.

Effective January 1, however, those limits rolled back. Conforming mortgages in the59 designated high-cost regionsare now capped at $625,500.

In non-high-cost areas, the 2009 conforming loan limitsremain unchanged from 2008.

  • 1-unit properties : $417,000
  • 2-unit properties : $533,850
  • 3-unit properties : $645,300
  • 4-unit properties : $801,950

Loans in excess of these dollar amounts are often called "jumbo", or "super jumbo" home loans, depending on their size. Jumbo home loans tend to be more costly than their conforming-sized cousins.