Spike in LIBOR rates may pressure ARM mortgage holders.

I know everyone (including me) is rather distracted by the events going on in the financial market mayhem over the past two weeks, but many mortgage holders of ARM’s tied to the LIBOR Index should be re-evaluating their long term mortgage strategy.    Because LIBOR has been very low, many were complacent to make serious consideration of refinancing into a fixed rate.  I read many comments about LIBOR Index being very favorable, and to an extent is has been true, until…….

Bloomberg’s report

The overnight Libor rate in US dollars ratcheted up 3.3 percentage points to 6.44 percent, the largest increase in 7 yrs.

This could change the tone of all the ARM mortgage holders, whose mortgage index is tied to the LIBOR, who were hoping for little payment change when their adjustment period arrives.

About 6 million U.S. mortgages, including almost all subprime home loans and 41 percent of prime ARMs, are linked to the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, according to First American CoreLogic in Santa Ana, California.

Further down the article, Seattle’s Bill Fleckenstein remarks:

“If the Libor market seizes up and stays that way, it’s going to complicate everything,” said Bill Fleckenstein, president of Fleckenstein Capital in Seattle. “What you are seeing is the unwinding of the financial system as we know it.”

King County Median prices fall over 10% YOY. Quite frankly, maybe today's Seattle Times headline will help the market.

This has been on my mind for a while, so I’ll throw it out there for people to discuss.  Sometimes a non-agent can introduce topics that the real estate community may be uncomfortable in discussing with their clients.  So, here goes…..

The topic:  Is this lousy news for sellers just the spice to get them to realize that the white- hot markets of 2005-2007 are long gone?

Price reductions have been taking place for sometime.  Months and months.   But, many have been token reductions and the conversations I hear and read on blogs is that,  in some instances, resistance has been fairly strong.

What good does it do when a seller who reduces a price by $3K on a $650,000 listing that has been languishing on the market for months?  If today, after weeks of small incremental reductions, the listing is priced at $550,000, there is no agent on earth representing a buyer that will take it seriously.  Especially after seeing the price reductions go on and on for months.   I don’t know who is torturing who:  the homeowner doing this practice or an agent who can’t pull the plug on the listing?  I’ve heard that not taking a listing is not in the DNA of agents (I’m teasing of course.)

I know of some agents who have broken their backs and have spent a lot of money on listings only for the seller to eventually pull the plug on the listing out of frustration.   And then, (drum roll please) have the $500K+ listing end up renting for under $2000.00/mo.  Any sellers out there understand the rent-to-price ratio relationship over the history of residential real estate?  Now, on the other hand, many of today’s agents have little experience in working through a correction and pricing and marketing a home effectively.  If we are honest, there was not a lot to do in a white-hot market to generate the offer: place the listing on the NWMLS and arrange a time with the seller to accept multiple offers.  I hear some were even nice enough to offer coffee and pastries to the agents sitting in cars outside of a property waiting for their turn to submit their offer.  How times have changed.

I have seen a couple of examples of the substandard work ethic and marketing in my neck of the woods in Snohomish Co:  outrageously poor marketing, only to have another professional agent come to the rescue and have a successful sale.  Good for that agent and good for the seller to recognize when a change is needed.

Will agents bring the Seattle Times clipped article to listing presentations?  When is real estate bad news good for moving sellers in the right direction and getting the market moving?  Perhaps today.  Or, maybe we still have a long way to go in understanding how damaging the excesses of next to zero lending standards will turn out to be and the artificial appreciation it fostered.

PS.  Those who are currently in the market to buy should be in conversations with your loan officers regarding the recent drop in interest rates.   Just today, our office is hearing that there are 30 yr fixed rates at 5.5% at par, some even indicating a small rebate at that rate.  Consult with your loan officer.

Salvaging a dead transaction: when a client refuses to sign.

Never underestimate the power of a cup of coffee

A few months ago I met with a client at their home in the Woodinville area. After introducing ourselves to each other we sat down at the kitchen table and started going over paperwork and loan documents. The gentleman slowly started to go over the loan documents in a methodical manner which is not unusual. Prior to each signing appoinment one of the very first things I mention to our client is that I’m not in a rush and they can take all the time they need. I indicate that there are a few important documents they need to pay particular attention to while the other bulk of the loan package is a series of disclosures, much of which is boilerplate and typical of most lender loan packages.

Probably 15 minutes into the signing it was evident that the demeanor of the client was changing. Not only was the scrutiny of the documents going slowly but question after question started to flow, one after the other. The client decided to stop the appointment and make a phone call to his loan officer. After a brief discussion, the client hung up the phone and informed me that the transaction would be on hold.

Naturally, your mind starts to spin a bit and I sensed that the gentleman wanted to digest the information more carefully, perhaps without the pressure of anyone being present. I informed the client that it was not a problem and I would be in touch to schedule another time to mutually get together and sign the documents.

coffee cup

We’ve been in each other’s company for about an hour by this time and I told him to “not worry about the transaction, at least I met another new friend!” At this point the gentleman offered me a cup of coffee. Hmm. That sounded really good and was my invitation to build trust. We sat down at the table over the coffee. I’ve never had a better brewed latte—this guy really knew what he was doing. Silky smooth and wonderful. We started to discuss absolutely everything: his house, our families, kids, the real estate market, interest rates, etc….

The gentleman was from Turkey and it was another lesson in assisting clients from other cultures and the way in which you build trust. The rest is history. Three and a half hours later I had a happy client, happy customers (loan officer/agent), and signed documents in my hand ready for a funding package to be completed and overnighted to the lender.

Private Money Loan Recommendations?

I had someone email me an interesting question recently:

I had a quick question about private money loans. Have their been any posts on this? I tried searching “private money”, “hard money” but nothing came up. I’m looking into rehabbing a house and conventional lending isn’t going to work for me, so I was wondering if there are any recommendations or guidelines for obtaining private money?

The closest thing I can remember is a site called Prosper (I wrote a note about it) where people can loan other people money. However, I’m almost positive they are geared toward small loans like paying off credit card debt, so I don’t think it would help for home remodeling projects. Also, when I did a bit of searching, I see Brian Bradu covered the topic of private money loans a little while ago, but his angle didn’t include any guidelines or recommendations for finding a private loan.

Is this a common thing? Is there a good source of information for private loans? My gut says that most private money loans are probably among family/friends, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there was an existing market for this kind of thing.

Baby Boomers Retire

Reverse Mortgages Gain Popularity

“Baby Boomers,” people born between 1946−1964, will begin to retire in large numbers. As a result, the demographic shock of a shrinking labor force and its effect on Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs. By 2030, about 20% of the American population is expected to be 65 or older, according to the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB).

With rising costs of living and a dwindling budget to accommodate the elderly and disabled, we will see increased usage of the reverse mortgage. This loan allows equity to be taken out of the home to meet day−to−day expenses, and was designed in the late 1980s to help those who owned property, but lacked sufficient income to live on. However, there are benefits and disadvantages to be known before going into this type of loan. In most loan scenarios a home will go into foreclosure if payment is not made. If payments are made, the debt decreases and equity increases. The opposite holds true for a reverse
mortgage; equity is taken out of the home to sustain the family, causing debt to increase while equity decreases. There is an exception − if the actual value of the home increases, less equity will be lost overall.

Most reverse mortgages are set up so there is no monthly payment as long as the owner or co−owner(s) resides in the home. There are no minimum income requirements, and the money can be used for any purpose. Equity disbursed from this type of loan is tax−free. Depending on the type of plan, reverse mortgages will usually allow the owner to retain the title to the property until they have lived in a different residence for 12 months, sell the property, die, or the end of the loan term is reached.

On the flip side, reverse mortgages can be more costly than a normal equity loan. Interest is added to the principal balance each month, and the amount of interest owed is compounded over time. The interest will not be tax deductible until the loan is paid off, in part or in full. Also, since the reverse mortgage uses equity in the property, this constitutes a loss of assets one could pass on to heirs.

The Federal Trade Commission warns of abuse with this type of loan, as they have received reports of predatory lenders taking advantage of the elderly. It is best for the individual interested in a reverse mortgage to research and obtain counsel from reputable sources.* HUD does not recommend consulting an estate planning service to obtain a referral to a lender. HUD provides this information free to the public. Even if the home was not originally an FHA loan, the reverse mortgage can be federally secured.

*Visit the HUD page on this subject at http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hecm/rmtopten.cfm, consult AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) at http://www.aarp.org, and the National Center for Home Equity Conversion at http://www.reverse.org.