New Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted last week to reduce quantitative easing (QE) by another $10 billion. The Fed is now purchasing $55 billion in bonds per month, including $25 billion mortgage-backed securities.
This is the third “taper” announced since the Fed – then under Ben Bernanke – first began the process near the end of 2013. Through its QE programs, the Fed had helped mortgage rates drop to the lowest levels on record. Less QE will mean higher rates.
The “tapering” process comes at a transitionary period for the real estate market.
During 2012 and 2013, the housing market broke out of its prolonged post-bubble slump. The Fed had helped juice mortgage rates to record lows. Home prices had dipped over 30% from mid-2000 highs.
The conditions were extremely affordable for folks to jump back into the housing market. Many borrowers took advantage of the opportunity and refinanced to a lower rate, thus reducing their monthly payments and/or saving thousands off interest payments.
Many buyers (including first-timers) also took advantage of the unique window of affordability to purchase a home.
A year later (and with Fed tapering in full swing), the 30-year fixed is over 1.0% higher and home prices are up between 10% and 20% from bottom. Demand for housing has dipped in the face of less affordability.
The latest report from the National Association of Realtors noted that the pace of home sales across the U.S. had slowed by 7.1% over the past year. The median price was up 9.1% during the same time.
The “supply” of homes available for sale rose to 5.2 months (up from 4.9 months), which suggests that demand for property has dropped slightly.
All in all, the housing market has slowed. Here are a few reasons why:
1) Less affordability.
2) Less maneuverability. Existing owners who refinanced in the last several years are reluctant to move out (and up) from their record-low rates. As Dina ElBoghdady writes for the Washington Post, “A healthy turnover of homes is critical to a robust housing sector, enabling critical first-time home buyers to enter the market and existing homeowners to move or trade up.”
3) The normal real estate cycle. Many interested buyers / borrowers already took care of their real estate activity for the next 5 to 10 years.
Though the market has slowed, buyers have many options for achieving homeownership, or to add an investment property to their portfolio. Central Coast Lending offers creative solutions for borrowers to obtain affordable mortgage finance for any type of property. (Learn about non-QM mortgages here).
For example, Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) are becoming more popular as fixed rates increase. Inside Mortgage Finance estimated that ARMs “accounted for 11.7 percent of mortgage originations in the third quarter of 2013,” wrote Pamela Yip for DallasNews.com. ARM activity is up from 9.8 percent the previous year.
Central Coast Lending offers a jumbo loan program requiring just 10% down and no mortgage insurance. For the program, the 3-year fixed ARM starts at 2.875% (3.078% APR) and the 5-year fixed starts at 3.625% (3.834% APR). (Please see the bottom of this article for full pricing details). In comparison, the 30-year fixed rate starts at 4.375 percent (4.432 percent APR) for one point in closing costs (see here for more rate updates).
After their initial fixed period, the ARM rates adjusts for the remainder of the 30 years based on the LIBOR index, which reflects the cost that banks pay to borrow.
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