What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 26, 2011

Fed Funds Rate 2008-2011Mortgage markets improved last week as the Federal Reserve provided new market stimulus and the Eurozone continued to grapple with Greek’s sovereign debt issues.

Conforming mortgage rates fell in Ohio last week overall, dropping for the second straight week.

For rate shoppers, the best day on which to lock a mortgage rate last week proved to be Thursday.

Fresh off the Federal Reserve’s Wednesday afternoon announcement that the group will launch a $400 billion program in support of longer-term bonds, mortgage rates fell. This occurred because mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, and mortgage bonds are a beneficiary of the Fed’s new program.

Those gains were short-lived, however, because Friday morning, when the market opened, mortgage bonds were deteriorated, and that momentum carried through to the afternoon.

By the time the markets closed for the weekend, nearly all of the Fed-led gains had been drained from mortgage bonds.

Within a matter of 48 hours, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates had plunged — then surged — 0.250 percent.

The speed at which rates changed underscores how tough it can be to shop for a mortgage these days. If you were quick on Thursday, you locked your rate at its low. If you “slept on it”, though, or even took too much time to think, you not only missed the best mortgage rates in more than 50 years, you missed it by entire quarter-percent.

On a $200,000 mortgage, that’s an approximately monthly payment difference of $30 per month.

This week, mortgage rates should be similarly volatile. There is a lot of economic news set for release, and the Eurozone is rumored to have a plan to save Greece from debt default.  Depending on the strength of said data, and the passage of a Greek default plan, just how mortgage rates will change is unknown.

If you’re shopping for mortgage rates, the safe path is to lock what you can. Mortgage rates may fall this week, but what if they don’t? Rates have a lot farther to rise than to fall.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 19, 2011

FOMC meets September 20-21Mortgage bonds worsened last week as Eurozone default fears eased abroad, and expectations for a domestic stimulus increased. 

Mortgage rates rose for the first time in three weeks last week, pushing conforming and FHA mortgage rates in Florida off their all-time, historical lows. Rates were at their lowest Tuesday morning, then rose through Friday’s afternoon closing. 

Markets open this week with an eye toward the world’s central banks.

In the Eurozone, central bankers (continue to) discuss the debt burdens of Greece and whether a coordinated intervention is necessary. Without it, some economists believe that the nation-state will default on its sovereign debt, which would then create additional financial stress within other nations in the region.

Italy is included among those countries.

In the United States, central bankers are making equally-important choices. 

The Federal Open Market Committee will emerge from a 2-day meeting Wednesday and is expected to announce new stimulus for the U.S. economy.

Since 2009, the Federal Reserve has twice stimulated the economy via an open-market, bond buying initiative. The programs created demand for mortgage bonds which, in turn, lowered mortgage rates for U.S. homeowners. If the Fed chooses this path a third time, expect for mortgage rates to fall.

If the Fed’s sponsored stimulus is something else, however — or if the Fed choose to do nothing — mortgage rates may rise.

There is economic data due this week, including the Existing Home Sales and Housing Starts report, but it will be the world’s central bankers that sit in spotlights. 

Expect volatile mortgage rates this week. Wall Street can only guess what governments will do to stimulate their respective economies and can lead to wild swings in pricing. The “safe play” is to lock a rate while we’re still near all-time lows.

Once rates reverse higher, they’re expected to rise quickly.

After A Pause, Mortgage Guidelines Resume Tightening

Mortgage guidelines tighteningMortgage guidelines appear to be tightening with the nation’s largest banks.

In its quarterly survey to senior loan officers nationwide, the Federal Reserve uncovered that a small, but growing, portion of its member banks is making mortgage approvals more scarce for “prime” borrowers.

A prime borrower is described as one with a well-documented payment history, high credit scores, and a low monthly debt-to-income ratio.

Of the 53 responding “big banks”, 3 reported that mortgage guidelines “tightened somewhat” last quarter. This is a tick higher as compared to prior quarters in which only 2 banks did.

46 banks reported guidelines unchanged from Q1 2011.

When mortgage guidelines tighten, it adds new hurdles for would-be home buyers. Tighter lending standards means fewer approvals, and that can retard home sales across a region.

Just don’t confuse “tighter standards” with “oppressive standards”.

While it is more difficult to get approved for a purchase home loan in 2011 as compared to 2006, the same basic rules apply:

  • Show that you have a history of paying your bills on time
  • Show that your income is sufficient to cover your obligations
  • Show that you can make a downpayment

And the good news is that, once approved, you’ll benefit from some of lowest mortgage rates in history.

Last week, the average 30-year fixed mortgage was below 4.250% for buyers willing to pay points, and the average 5-year ARM was below 3.000%. The 15-year fixed rate loan was similarly low.

For as long as delinquency rates remain high, expect mortgage guidelines to continue to tighten through the rest of 2011 and into 2012. Therefore, if you’re a “fringe” borrower looking at a purchase in the fall or winter season, consider moving up your time frame. Changing guidelines may render you ineligible for a mortgage.