What a Government Shutdown Means for REALTORS®

2018 Federal Government Shutdown

What a Government Shutdown Means for REALTORS®

Congress has failed to approve a Continuing Resolution (CR) providing funding for most government operations. Therefore, spending authority for most of the government expired at midnight on January 19, 2018. Until legislation providing for funding is signed into law, many offices and programs of the federal government are now shut down. This means many, but not all, government programs, including some that impact federal housing and mortgage programs, have been suspended or slowed due to the lapse in government funding. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires each agency to have contingency plans in place. The information below is based on NAR staff review of agency contingency plans for the current shutdown and past experience with previous shutdowns and near-shutdowns.

NFIP National Flood Insurance Program

An extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was attached to the CR that Congress failed to pass. This means that for the duration of the shutdown, the NFIP will not be able to issue new or renew flood insurance policies. However, existing policies will not be affected until 30 days after their expiration date. Homebuyers will also be able to assume existing policies and claims will continue to be processed and paid as usual. For more detailed information, FEMA’s latest guidance to insurance companies can be found here(link is external).

Federal Housing Administration

HUD’s Contingency Plan states that FHA will endorse new loans in the Single Family Mortgage Loan Program except for HECM loans. It will not make new commitments in the Multi-family Program during the shutdown. FHA will maintain operational activities including paying claims and collecting premiums. FHA Contractors managing the REO/HUD Homes portfolio can continue to operate. Loss mitigation programs will continue to operate. You can expect some delays with FHA processing due to short staffing. (See the HUD Contingency Plan for Possible Lapse in Appropriations(link is external) for more info.)

Government Sponsored Enterprises

During previous shutdowns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have continued normal operations, just as their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, since they are not reliant on appropriated funds. Fannie and Freddie are expected to announce relaxed procedures that would permit closings to go forward without federal verification of Social Security numbers and IRS tax transcripts. However, lenders would still have to obtain federal verification of both before the GSE’s will accept loans for purchase. Any relaxed requirements would not apply to loan modification re-financings.

Rural Housing Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will not issue new rural housing Direct Loans or Guaranteed Loans. Scheduled closings of Direct Loans will not occur. Scheduled closings of Guaranteed Loans without the guarantee previously issued would be closed at the lender’s own risk.

VA Loan Guaranty Program

The VA loan guaranty program will be operational. The VA has determined that housing is an “essential service.” In addition, VA projects that “95.5% of VA employees would either be fully funded or required to perform excepted functions during a shutdown” (Download the VA Contingency Plan here(link is external) for more info.)

Internal Revenue Service

The IRS is closed and has suspended the processing of all forms, including requests for tax return transcripts (Form 4506T). While FHA and VA do not require these transcripts, they are required by many lenders for many kinds of loans, including FHA and VA, so delays can be expected if the shutdown is protracted. We have received indications that many loan originators are adopting revised policies during the shutdown, such as allowing for processing and closings with income verification to follow, as long as the borrower has signed a Form 4506T requesting IRS tax transcripts. On loans requiring a Form 4506T Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to adopt relaxed provisions allowing closings but subject to tax transcript verification before the GSE’s purchase the loans.

Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration is closed and has suspended most customer service functions. According to the SSA Contingency Plan, verifying Social Security numbers through the Consent Based SSN Verification Service will also be suspended during the shutdown, a further complication for mortgage processing. As with IRS income verification, policies vary among lenders, with many choosing to exercise forbearance during the shutdown period subject to subsequent verification. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to adopt policies to allow for closing subject to subsequent verification and before GSE purchase of the loan.

For more information contact:

Dean Henderson, CRMS
(661)726-9000

Yellen Raises Rates on her way out as Fed Chair

Yellen-rate-hikeThe Fed increased rates at their most recent meeting. They also indicated they will likely raise rates three additional times in 2018. Please read on for more:

First, who is the Fed and what do they do?

The Federal Reserve Board (the Fed), controls the Fed Fund Rate and the Discount Rate. These are charges for overnight loans from bank to bank or from the Fed to member banks.

What does an increase mean for regular people?
• It could cause banks to increase their “prime rates,” which are often used to calculate interest on consumer products like credit cards and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).
• Mortgage rates are long-term rates and not directly controlled by Fed rate changes. However, mortgage rates are influenced by Fed policy, and rates can rise in anticipation of future Fed action. There are exceptions, yet home loan rates will typically follow overall interest rate trends over time.

Upcoming change in leadership at the Fed:
In January 2018, the current Fed chair, Janet Yellen, will step aside for a new chair, Jerome Powell. Time will tell whether this transition will impact overall policy.

Here’s what we know:
With the uncertainty, I’m tracking the changes carefully and am happy to keep you informed whenever you like.

Thank you for allowing me to provide you updates on industry news. Please reach out if I can answer any questions for you or help with financing (or refinancing) your home.

Dean Henderson, CRMS
661-726-9000

FHA Prepares for 2017 Housing Boom

fha-update

FHA Prepares for 2017 Housing Boom by Raising Loan Amounts and Lowering Fees

January 9, 2017
by Dean Henderson

After several years of stifled growth held back by ever increasing layers of burdensome government regulations, a new optimism for consumer confidence in housing will be aided by policy changes in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD).

The Federal Housing Administration(FHA) has announced that in 2017 the maximum loan amounts for FHA mortgages will be increased in the high-cost California areas of Los Angeles and Orange Counties from $625,500 to $636,150.

In addition to the increased loan amounts FHA has also announced it will decrease the amount of monthly mortgage insurance charged on FHA loans by 25 basis points on most mortgages beginning the week after the new administration takes office.

In the Antelope Valley, most first-time homebuyers utilize the 3.5% down payment FHA program which currently has an annual mortgage insurance factor of .85%.  This will be reduced to .60%.  Assuming an average sales price of $269,000 the monthly mortgage insurance premium will be decreasing from $182.33 to $128.71 which is a savings of over $53 per month or $643 per year.   This could increase the buying power of homebuyers by approximately $8,000.

Ed Golding, HUD’s principal deputy assistant secretary for housing said, “Homeownership is the way most middle class Americans build wealth and achieve financial security for themselves and their families. This conservative reduction in our premium rates is an appropriate measure to support them on their path to the American dream.”

The FHA said that the premium cut “will significantly expand” access to mortgage credit and lower the cost of housing for the approximately 1 million households who are expected to purchase a home or refinance their mortgages using FHA-insured financing in 2017.

For a full breakdown of the premium cuts, click here for the details from HUD.

For more information of FHA Home Loan please contact:
Dean Henderson, CRMS
President, Financial Indepedence Mortgage
(661)726-9000

Fiscal Cliff Deal Impact on Real Estate Market

H.R. 8

The mortgage industry can breathe a sigh of relief with the final fiscal cliff deal bringing back a popular tax break on mortgage insurance premiums and debt forgiveness for borrowers who go through a short-sale or some other type of debt reduction.

A topic that is still up for discussion and likely to surface later in the year is whether the popular mortgage interest tax deduction will be part of a long-term deficit reduction plan.

Still, the deal passed by the Senate and House on Jan. 1 is one that leaves room for hope in the housing market.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) apparently extends a law that expired at the end of 2011, which allowed for the deductibility of mortgage insurance premiums, according to a research report from Isaac Boltansky with Compass Point Research & Trading. The law now applies to fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

“The law dictates that eligible borrowers who itemize their federal tax returns and have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $100,000 per year can deduct 100% of their annual mortgage insurance premiums,” Compass Point said.

The following are more items in H.R. 8 that are of interest to housing market:

Business Tax Items

Permanently extends the 2001/2003 tax rates for adjusted gross income levels under $450,000 ($400,000 single); good for small business and home builders, 80% of whom are pass-thru entities who pay taxes on the individual side of the code

Permanently extends the Alternative Minimum patch; again, good for small business owners who are frequently at risk of paying AMT

Permanently sets the parameters of the estate tax; positive for family-owned construction firms; codifies the 2010 $5 million exemption amount (indexed to inflation) and a 40 percent estate tax rate

Extends present law section 179 small business expensing through the end of 2013; offers cash flow and administrative cost benefits for small firms

Extends the section 45L new energy-efficient home tax credit through the end of 2013; allows a $2,000 tax credit for the construction of for sale and for-lease energy-efficient homes in buildings with fewer than three floors above grade

Homeowner Tax Items

Extends through the end of 2013 mortgage debt tax relief; important rule that prevents tax liability from many short sales or mitigation workouts involving forgiven, deferred or canceled mortgage debt

Deduction for mortgage insurance extended through the end of 2013; reduces the cost of buying a home when paying PMI or insurance for an FHA or VA- insured mortgage; $110,000 AGI phaseout remains

Extends the section 25C energy-efficient tax credit for existing homes through the end of 2013; important remodeling market incentive, although the lifetime cap remains at $500.

Reinstates the Pease/PEP phaseouts for deductions; for married taxpayers with AGI above $300,000 ($250,000 single), the Pease limitation reduces total itemized deductions by 3 percent for the dollar amount of AGI above the thresholds. This is a negative change for some high cost areas, but should only have small impacts. Example, a married household with $350,000 AGI would be $50,000 above the limit and must reduce their Schedule A total by $1,500 raising their taxes by about $500. Only a share of that would be due to the MID.

Multifamily Tax Items

Extends the 9percent LIHTC credit rate for allocations through the end of 2013; absent the credit fix, the LIHTC program would suffer a loss of equity investment for affordable housing projects

Extension through the end of 2013 of base housing allowance rules for affordable housing

Also noteworthy are items that are not in H.R. 8, including an itemized deduction cap or a defined fast-track tax reform process. Nonetheless, the return of the Pease rules suggests that items like the mortgage interest deduction will be under debate in 2013.

The resolution of the fiscal cliff now gives way to a series of mini-cliffs due to the need to raise the debt ceiling, establishing government spending levels and deal with the sequester. Over the long run, the future of housing demand, and interest rates in particular, will be affected by how Congress and the President solve the nation’s long-run deficit challenges.

For More Mortgage Information Contact:
Dean Henderson, CRMS
(661) 726-9000

The 2012 Election’s Impact on Our Real Estate Market

How can we expect the results of the recent 2012 election to effect our local real estate market?  Real Estate is the engine that drives not only our local economy but the global economy as well.  How our elected officials handle the Real Estate industry will determine the direction of our economic prosperity.  Check out this analysis from the RE Source guys:

For more information on the Antelope Valley Real Estate Market call:
Dean Henderson, CRMS
661-726-9000

3 Misconceptions About Our Economy

 

Here are the real facts on foreign oil, the U.S. debt, and buying American.

At a conference in Philadelphia recently, a Wharton professor noted that one of the country’s biggest economic problems is a tsunami of misinformation. You can’t have a rational debate when facts are so easily supplanted by overreaching statements, broad generalizations, and misconceptions. And if you can’t have a rational debate, how does anything important get done? As author William Feather once advised, “Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.” There seems to be no shortage of those people lately.

Here are three misconceptions that need to be put to rest.

Misconception: Most of what Americans spend their money on is made in China.

Fact: Just 2.7% of personal consumption expenditures go to Chinese-made goods and services. 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending is on American-made goods and services.

I used that statistic in an article last week, and the response from readers was overwhelming: Hogwash. People just didn’t believe it.

The figure comes from a Federal Reserve report. You can read it here.

A common rebuttal I got was, “How can it only be 2.7% when almost everything in Wal-Mart (WMT) is made in China?” Because Wal-Mart’s $260 billion in U.S. revenue isn’t exactly reflective of America’s $14.5 trillion economy. Wal-Mart might sell a broad range of knickknacks, many of which are made in China, but the vast majority of what Americans spend their money on is not knickknacks.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics closely tracks how an average American spends their money in an annual report called the Consumer Expenditure Survey. In 2010, the average American spent 34% of their income on housing, 13% on food, 11% on insurance and pensions, 7% on health care, and 2% on education. Those categories alone make up nearly 70% of total spending, and are comprised almost entirely of American-made goods and services (only 7% of food is imported, according to the USDA).

Even when looking at physical goods alone, Chinese imports still account for just a small fraction of U.S. spending. Just 6.4% of nondurable goods — things like food, clothing and toys — purchased in the U.S. are made in China; 76.2% are made in America. For durable goods — things like cars and furniture — 12% are made in China; 66.6% are made in America.

Another way to grasp the value of Chinese-made goods is to look at imports. The U.S. is on track to import $340 billion worth of goods from China this year, which is 2.3% of our $14.5 trillion economy. Is that a lot? Yes. Is it most of what we spend our money on? Not by a long shot.

Part of the misconception is likely driven by the notion that America’s manufacturing base has been in steep decline. The truth, surprising to many, is that real manufacturing output today is near an all-time high. What’s dropped precipitously in recent decades is manufacturing employment. Technology and automation has allowed American manufacturers to build more stuff with far fewer workers than in the past. One good example: In 1950, aU.S. Steel (X) plant in Gary, Ind., produced 6 million tons of steel with 30,000 workers. Today, it produces 7.5 million tons with 5,000 workers. Output has gone up; employment has dropped like a rock.

Misconception: We owe most of our debt to China.

Fact: China owns 7.8% of U.S. government debt outstanding.

As of August, China owned $1.14 trillion of Treasuries. Government debt stood at $14.6 trillion that month. That’s 7.8%.

Who owns the rest? The largest holder of U.S. debt is the federal government itself. Various government trust funds like the Social Security trust fund own about $4.4 trillion worth of Treasury securities. The Federal Reserve owns another $1.6 trillion. Both are unique owners: Interest paid on debt held by federal trust funds is used to cover a portion of federal spending, and the vast majority of interest earned by the Federal Reserve is remitted back to the U.S. Treasury.

The rest of our debt is owned by state and local governments ($700 billion), private domestic investors ($3.1 trillion), and other non-Chinese foreign investors ($3.5 trillion).

Does China own a lot of our debt? Yes, but it’s a qualified yes. Of all Treasury debt held by foreigners, China is indeed the largest owner ($1.14 trillion), followed by Japan ($937 billion) and the U.K. ($397 billion).

Right there, you can see that Japan and the U.K. combined own more U.S. debt than China. Now, how many times have you heard someone say that we borrow an inordinate amount of money from Japan and the U.K.? I never have. But how often do you hear some version of the “China is our banker” line? Too often, I’d say.

Misconception: We get most of our oil from the Middle East.

Fact: Just 9.2% of oil consumed in the U.S. comes from the Middle East.

According the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. consumes 19.2 million barrels of petroleum products per day. Of that amount, a net 49% is produced domestically. The rest is imported.

Where is it imported from? Only a small fraction comes from the Middle East, and that fraction has been declining in recent years. So far this year, imports from the Persian Gulf region — which includes Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — have made up 9.2% of total petroleum supplied to the U.S. In 2001, that number was 14.1%.

The U.S. imports more than twice as much petroleum from Canada and Mexico than it does from the Middle East. Add in the share produced domestically, and the majority of petroleum consumed in the U.S. comes from North America.

This isn’t to belittle our energy situation. The nation still relies on imports for about half of its oil. That’s bad. But should the Middle East get the attention it does when we talk about oil reliance? In terms of security and geopolitical stability, perhaps. In terms of volume, probably not.

A roomful of skeptics
“People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe,” said Andy Rooney. Do these numbers fit with what you already believed? No hard feelings if they don’t. Just let me know why in the comment section below.