Buyer Beware: 'Tis the Season

Boy, you’re going to think I’m the Scrooge…and this article may not apply to most of you…but I want to reach out to those of us who rely on our credit cards to help finance the holidays.  You see, years past it was not uncommon for home owners to get into the spirit and purchase many gifts for our loved ones–going over the top (meaning beyond our budget).  Yes, it feels great to see the look of joy and surprise on little Johnny and Susie’s face when the open the gifts they’ve been longing for…but this year, you may not have the “fix” of meeting with your Mortgage Professional in January to “reorganize” your debt.   Just in time for the holidays, Fannie Mae is unrolling DU Version 7.1 which really puts a damper on cash out refinances.

This officially takes place over the weekend of December 13, 2008; however lenders will start implementing this soon (so that loans are in compliance for Fannie Mae once they are purchased).   A cash out refinance will be limited to 85% of appraised value of your single family residence.   By the way, if you’re refinancing a second mortgage/home equity loan that was not used for the purchase of your residence, this is classified as a “cash out” refinance–even if you have never received cash out and you only reduced the rate on your second mortgage on a previous refinance.  (A refinance including a “non-purchase” second mortgage is treated as “cash out” with pricing and underwriting–no exceptions).   This will force more home owners to FHA mortgages which allow higher cash out refinances at a cost (upfront and monthly mortgage insurance regardless of loan to value).  

Factor in home values and you can really see the challenge with doing a cash-out refinance.  Lenders count on appraisals to establish a value for your home.  This value is based on what other homes like yours have recently sold and closed for in your neighborhood.  No sales?  A short sale?  Ugh.  It doesn’t matter what’s listed down the street, what your assessed value is or what you feel the home is worth in the lenders and appraiser’s eyes.

Tis the Season for big sales, no interest or payment for X many months and credit card companies including blank checks in our statements with dreams of sugar plum fairies and hopes that we’ll indebt ourselves further.  Please don’t do it. 

  • Make a budget for your holiday shopping.
  • Pay cash.
  • Consider a gift exchange for your family.
  • Find alternatives to spending for celebrating the Season.

You may wind up trapped, like Ardell’s Six Pack Joe, once your interest rates kick in and your bills start piling up with no refinance in sight.   I’m here to say that YOU do have a choice and you need to be informed and responsible for your debts.   Mortgages are getting tougher (especially refinances) and chances are, your home equity is not here to rescue you.

I won’t go into how credit cards and home equity loans are being frozen or the credit lines are being reduced without notice (and how damaging it is to your credit scores when your borrowed amount is above 50% of the credit card limit).  

You have less than two months to plan for Christmas.  Don’t be stuck with extra debt and tanking credit scores…your home equity may not be there to save you (even if you have it, you may not have affordable access to it).

Tear Downs

One of the commenters, Redmondjp, asked about tear downs. Kirkland is famous for new homes being put where old ones used to be. But our conversation stemmed around whether or not Bellevue and Redmond ramblers built in the 50s and 60s will go the way of these Kirkland teardowns. I know of a few in Bellevue. I don’t know any in Redmond.

Here are a few recent tear downs, before and after, from Kirkand. What do you think?

Should the old ones have stayed?