Market News – Fed Watch

The Fed’s pattern of rate hikes through early 2022 to mid-2023 culminated in a pause, announced at their latest meeting on March 20, 2024. Despite this pause, we’ve seen mortgage rates fluctuate. A notable instance was the decrease in rates in late December, despite the Fed’s decision to maintain its key rate during its December 13 meeting.
Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, explains that the bond market, including mortgage-backed securities, often adjusts longer-term interest rates in anticipation of future Fed policies. While the Fed plans to cut rates later this year, the exact timing remains uncertain. While the rates have remained unchanged, there’s an expectation of three rate cuts in 2024.
How the Federal Reserve Influences Borrowing Costs
The Fed sets borrowing costs for short-term loans via the federal funds rate, which affects how much banks charge each other for overnight loans. This rate, increased in 2022 and 2023 to control inflation, impacts borrowing costs across the economy, including credit card rates and home equity loans. However, fixed-rate mortgages, the most popular home loan type, are more closely aligned with the 10-year Treasury yield rather than the federal funds rate.
The Fed’s role in buying and selling debt securities also indirectly affects mortgage rates by influencing the credit flow.
What Affects Mortgage Rates?
The primary influencer of fixed-rate mortgages is the 10-year Treasury yield. A notable gap typically exists between this yield and the fixed mortgage rate. In 2023, the gap widened, leading to more expensive mortgages.
Mortgage rates are also subject to:
• Inflation: Higher inflation often leads to increased fixed mortgage rates.
• Supply and Demand: Lenders adjust rates based on their current business volume.
• The secondary mortgage market: The demand from investors for mortgage-backed securities can lower mortgage rates. Conversely, lack of investor interest might cause rates to rise.
The Fed’s Impact on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs)
While less common than fixed-rate mortgages, ARMs are significantly influenced by the Fed’s decisions. ARMs often tie to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), which the Fed’s actions can affect. Changes in the fed funds rate lead to adjustments in SOFR, consequently impacting ARM rates.
If you are looking to make a move this spring make sure to schedule a consultation with us on our website and we can review your needs and what best fits your needs.

Interest-Only Mortgages: A Flexible Option with Risks

In the realm of home financing, interest-only mortgages present a unique blend of short-term affordability and long-term considerations. If you’re contemplating this type of mortgage, understanding its mechanics, benefits, and potential pitfalls is crucial.
What is an Interest-Only Mortgage?
Interest-only mortgages allow borrowers to pay only the interest component of their loan for a predetermined period, usually 7 to 10 years. During this time, you won’t pay down the principal balance. After this phase, the loan reverts to a standard amortizing mortgage, where both principal and interest are paid, typically at a variable rate.
A Brief Historical Context
These mortgage types gained traction in the early 2000s, offering immediate low payment relief. However, they played a significant role in the 2007 housing crisis and subsequent recession, leading to stricter regulations and a reevaluation of their role in the mortgage industry.
The Mechanics of Interest-Only Mortgages
During the interest-only phase, your payments may be considerably lower than traditional loans. However, this doesn’t include the principal, meaning no equity build-up during this period. After the initial phase, you must repay the principal, resulting in significantly higher payments, especially as these are now amortized over a shorter period.
Case Study: Interest-Only vs. Traditional Mortgage
Consider a $330,000 loan. With an interest-only mortgage at 5.1%, your initial monthly payment would be around $1,403. Post the interest-only phase, assuming a stable rate, this jumps to $2,033. In contrast, a 30-year traditional mortgage at 5.54% would cost $1,882 monthly, a more consistent figure over time.
Qualifying for an Interest-Only Mortgage
Post-housing crisis, these loans are less accessible and come with stringent qualifying criteria, such as high credit scores, low debt-to-income ratios, substantial down payments, proof of future earnings, and ample assets.
Is an Interest-Only Mortgage Right for You?
These mortgages suit certain financial strategies and situations, like expecting a future income increase, needing lower initial payments, or planning a property sale before the interest-only period ends. However, they come with risks, such as payment shock post the initial period, market rate vulnerabilities, and the potential for negative equity.
Pros and Cons at a Glance
• Lower initial payments.
• Potential for larger or better-located homes initially.
• Delaying larger payments or avoiding them if relocating.
• No equity build-up initially.
• Risk of unaffordable future payments or large balloon payments.
• Dependence on market rates.
Alternatives and the Refinancing Option
Consider alternatives like adjustable-rate mortgages with introductory low rates or government-backed loans offering affordable payments without the interest-only risk. Refinancing into an interest-only mortgage is possible but comes with similar qualification hurdles and additional costs like appraisals and closing fees.
Conclusion: Think Long-Term
Interest-only mortgages offer flexibility but demand a strategic long-term view and a thorough understanding of their implications. Remember, the right mortgage choice is one that aligns with your overall financial goals and lifestyle needs. Your mortgage journey is unique, and we’re here to guide you through every step. Schedule a consultation on our website and we can help find the best mortgage options for your situation.

What Are Real Estate Transfer Taxes?

When you’re in the market to buy or sell a home, understanding all the costs involved is crucial. One of these costs, often overlooked, is the real estate transfer tax. This blog post aims to shed light on what real estate transfer taxes are, how they differ from other taxes, their costs, who typically pays for them, and where the funds go.

A real estate transfer tax, sometimes referred to as a deed transfer tax or documentary stamp tax, is a one-time fee imposed during the transfer of property ownership. This tax is usually based on the property’s sale price and can vary significantly depending on the location.

How Does It Differ From Other Taxes?
It’s important to distinguish real estate transfer taxes from other types of taxes like property taxes, estate taxes, and gift taxes. Property taxes are an ongoing expense paid annually, mainly used for public services like schools and roads. Estate taxes apply when transferring assets (which might include real estate) of a deceased person to their heirs. Gift taxes are due when property is gifted and its value exceeds a certain threshold. Unlike these, real estate transfer taxes are a one-time cost incurred during the property sale process.

Cost of Transfer Taxes
The rate of real estate transfer tax varies by state. For instance, a $500,000 property sale might attract just $50 in transfer taxes in Colorado but can be as high as $3,500 in Florida. This cost is part of the closing costs and is not deductible against income tax. However, it can increase the tax basis of the property for the buyer, which might be beneficial in reducing future capital gains taxes.

Who Pays the Transfer Taxes?
The responsibility for paying transfer taxes can differ based on the state and even the specific terms of the real estate contract. While in many places the seller pays these taxes, in others, it’s the buyer’s responsibility, or the cost is split between both parties. This can often be a point of negotiation during the sale process.

Where Do Transfer Tax Funds Go?
The funds collected from real estate transfer taxes are used by local governments for various purposes, such as infrastructure maintenance or paying public employee salaries. In some states, these taxes contribute to the state budget.

States Without Real Estate Transfer Tax
Interestingly, several states do not impose any real estate transfer tax. These include Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon (in most counties), Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

Common Reasons Your Mortgage Application is Denied

Securing a mortgage in the current housing market can be challenging. With rising mortgage rates, soaring home values, and a pace of home price appreciation that far exceeds wage growth, getting a mortgage approval is far from guaranteed. This blog post aims to clarify the mortgage approval process, highlight typical obstacles, and provide advice for prospective homeowners.
The Mortgage Underwriting Process
Mortgage underwriting is where lenders assess your financial situation. This process involves a detailed examination of your financial documents – bank statements, tax documents, W-2s, pay stubs, and any additional information requested by the lender. The objective is to determine whether you qualify for a loan.
The traditional, more subjective methods of assessing creditworthiness have been replaced by automated underwriting software systems like Desktop Underwriter for Fannie Mae loans or Loan Product Advisor for Freddie Mac loans. These systems use algorithms to approve, reject, or request more information from applicants.
Top Reasons for Mortgage Application Denial
1. Credit Issues
Your credit score is a crucial factor in the mortgage process. While higher scores (above 740) often get the best rates, you can still qualify for certain mortgages with lower scores. It’s essential to check your credit score, correct any errors, and maintain your score during the mortgage application process.
2. Income Shortfalls
Lenders look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to determine if you can handle an additional loan. A DTI ratio above 43% is typically undesirable, with 36% being more favorable. If you have substantial debts, such as student or car loans, it’s advisable to reduce these before applying for a mortgage. Self-employed individuals might face extra challenges due to irregular income or the way tax write-offs impact reported income.
3. High Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio
A high LTV ratio, which compares the loan amount to the property’s value, can be a red flag for lenders. A larger down payment, resulting in a lower LTV ratio, can improve your loan approval chances.
4. Financing Challenges for Certain Properties
Some properties, like condos or manufactured homes, can be more difficult to finance. Structural issues or other property-related concerns can also hinder loan approval.
5. Recent Financial Instability
Financial stability is important to lenders. Recent changes in your job, a history of sporadic employment, or unusual banking activity can impact your loan approval.
What to Do If Your Application is Denied
If your mortgage application is denied, use our qualifier wizard on our website and schedule a consultation. Whether it’s addressing credit issues, lowering your DTI or LTV ratios, choosing the right type of property, or ensuring financial stability we can do a deep dive and see what best fits your needs!

Market Watch – Home Sales and Prices Up

For this month’s market watch we are seeing home prices continue to climb as well as sales of existing homes according to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), even in the traditionally quieter month of January.
A Glimpse of Hope in Existing Home Sales
Interestingly, the market is witnessing a slight resurgence in the sales of existing homes. These are properties that have been previously occupied, as opposed to brand-new constructions. This increase is attributed to more listings becoming available. According to the NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, while sales figures are still lower compared to a few years back, the rise in January indicates a balance beginning to form between supply and demand, thanks to modest increases in listings and homebuyers capitalizing on currently lower mortgage rates. The trajectory of the housing market in the coming months is expected to be significantly influenced by the direction of these mortgage rates.
Trends in Existing-Home Sales
The statistics for existing-home sales, encompassing all completed transactions of non-new-construction homes, showed a national increase of 3.1% month-over-month in January 2024, reaching an annual pace of 4.0 million homes. Despite this uptick, the figure represents a 1.7% decrease year-over-year.Regionally, the West saw a 4.3% monthly increase, while the South experienced a 4.0% rise. The Northeast remained unchanged monthly but saw a 5.9% annual decrease, and the Midwest increased by 2.2% monthly, with a 3.1% annual decline.
Home Prices: Continuing to Climb
The median sale price for existing homes nationally was $379,100 in January, marking a 5.1% increase from last year and the highest price for January on record. This trend reflects a persistent rise in home prices, with the median reaching its peak at $413,800 in June 2022. This increase has been a part of a remarkable run in the U.S. housing market, with a record streak of year-over-year median sale price increases.
All four major U.S. regions experienced annual price increases in January, with the West leading at $572,100, up 6.3% from a year ago.
The Challenge of Low Housing Inventory
The total housing inventory at the end of January was 1.01 million units, slightly up from December but still indicative of a market short of the five to six months’ supply needed for a balanced market. This limited inventory is partly due to the reluctance of homeowners to sell, especially those who secured mortgages at lower rates in the past.
Key Takeaways for Homebuyers and Sellers
For prospective homebuyers and sellers, these trends offer both challenges and opportunities. Buyers face high prices and mortgage rates, yet there’s a growing inventory of existing homes. Sellers, on the other hand, are in a strong position due to high demand and limited supply, but must navigate the implications of current mortgage rates. Of course if you want to review options schedule a free consultation on our website.

Homeowners Insurance for New Homebuyers

Buying a home is a big milestone, but with it comes the responsibility of choosing the right homeowners insurance. This key step in the homebuying process protects you from financial loss in the event your most expensive investment is damaged or destroyed. As a new homebuyer, understanding the nuances of homeowners insurance is crucial for safeguarding your property and peace of mind.

The Importance of Adequate Coverage

On average, homeowners spend about $1,687 annually for insurance on a property valued at $250,000. However, standard policies may not cover all risks. It’s important to explore policy endorsements or add-ons for more comprehensive coverage, especially for specific risks like flooding or earthquakes. If you’re in the process of buying a new home, need an endorsement your current carrier doesn’t offer, or are facing increased rates at renewal, it’s time to shop for new insurance.

How to Shop for Home Insurance

Purchasing homeowners insurance can be more straightforward than you think. The process typically involves determining what you need to insure, researching insurance companies, exploring coverage add-ons, comparing quotes, and finally buying the policy. When evaluating what to insure, consider not only your home’s structure but also personal property and detached structures like garages or sheds. Research should focus on finding a company that aligns with your needs, whether that’s through digital tools, customer service options, or specific coverage offerings.

Evaluating Your Coverage Needs

When you take stock of your belongings and your home’s features, like upgraded appliances or hardwood floors, you’ll get a sense of the personal property coverage required. High-value items like jewelry or antiques often need additional coverage since standard policies have limits. Similarly, coverage for other structures on your property, typically a percentage of your dwelling coverage, should be assessed based on the replacement cost of structures like pools, sheds, or fences.

Comparing and Choosing the Right Policy

After narrowing down your choices, compare quotes to find the best rate. The cost of similar coverage can vary significantly among providers due to different discounts and personal rating factors. When you’re ready to buy, review the key coverage details of your policy to ensure it meets your needs. Standard policies typically include coverage for the dwelling, other structures, personal property, loss of use, liability, and medical payments. Be sure to understand each aspect and adjust as necessary.

Timing Your Insurance Shopping

You can shop for home insurance at any time, but certain moments, like moving to a new state, experiencing a rate increase, or needing a specific endorsement, can be particularly opportune. If you’re a new homebuyer, start early to find the best policy and price. Remember, if you’re planning to switch insurers, it’s advisable to secure the new policy before canceling the old one to avoid any coverage gaps.

Navigating the world of homeowners insurance as a new homebuyer can be daunting, but it’s a vital step in protecting your investment. By understanding your coverage needs, comparing options, and choosing the right policy, you can ensure that your new home and belongings are adequately protected.

5/1 ARM Loans Explained

When we had historically low interest rates, people didn’t ask about ARM loans as much but today we hearing more questions, so a good explainer always helps even if you’re a mortgage pro – here’s a refresher. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer upsides and downsides, providing homeowners with an opportunity to capitalize on initially lower interest rates. Among the various ARMs available, the 5/1 ARM has emerged as a popular choice. This post delves into the mechanics of a 5/1 ARM, its advantages, disadvantages, and how it compares to other mortgage options.

What is a 5/1 ARM?

A 5/1 ARM is a specific type of adjustable-rate mortgage. The “5/1” denomination signifies two critical components of the loan: the first number (5) represents the duration in years of the initial fixed-rate period, while the second number (1) indicates the frequency in years of rate adjustments post the fixed-rate term. In essence, for the first five years, the interest rate remains constant, and thereafter, it adjusts annually based on prevailing market rates.

Example Scenario
Consider a 5/1 ARM loan for $300,000 at a 6.5% starting interest rate. For the first five years, your monthly payment would be about $2,045. With a potential 5% lifetime cap, the maximum payment could reach around $3,140.

Key Components of a 5/1 ARM
Introductory Rate: Often lower than fixed-rate mortgages, this rate applies during the initial five-year period.
Adjustment Intervals: Post the fixed-rate term, this is the frequency at which your rate will change.
Rate Caps: These include initial, periodic, and lifetime caps, setting limits on how much your interest rate can increase at each adjustment and over the life of the loan.
Pros and Cons of a 5/1 ARM

Lower Initial Payments: Initially, the payments are generally lower than those of a 30-year fixed mortgage.
Potential for Rate Decrease: If market rates fall, so could your payments after the fixed period.
Risk of Higher Rates: Post the fixed period, if rates rise, so will your payments.
Complexity: Understanding rate caps, indexes, and resets can be daunting.
Interest-Only Payments: Some ARMs allow interest-only payments initially, but this can lead to higher future payments and potential negative equity.
Comparing 5/1 ARM to Other Loans

5/1 ARM vs. Other ARMs: Longer-term ARMs like 7/1 or 10/1 have higher initial fixed rates but offer longer stability.
5/1 ARM vs. Fixed-Rate Mortgage: A fixed-rate mortgage offers payment certainty over its life, unlike the potential fluctuations of a 5/1 ARM.
When to Consider a 5/1 ARM

Short-Term Ownership: Ideal if you plan to sell or refinance before the rate adjusts.
Income Growth Expectations: Suitable if you anticipate a higher income in the future.
Financial Flexibility: If your budget can handle potential rate increases, a 5/1 ARM could be a viable option.

The 5/1 ARM offers a potentially lower-cost pathway to homeownership, with the trade-off of future interest rate uncertainty. It’s crucial for prospective borrowers to weigh this balance of initial affordability against the potential for higher future costs. Understanding your financial situation, future plans, and the intricacies of ARMs is key to making an informed decision so please schedule a call or meeting on our website and we can see what best fits your situation!

What Is A Proof Of Funds Letter?

Understanding Mortgage Proof of Funds (POF) Letter: A Key Document for Homebuyers

When you’re stepping into the world of homebuying, especially with a mortgage, a critical piece of paperwork you’ll encounter is the Proof of Funds (POF) letter. This document is not just a formality; it’s an essential part of the buying process, assuring lenders and sellers of your financial readiness. Let’s dive into what a POF letter is, why it’s needed, and how to obtain one.

What is a Proof of Funds Letter?

A Proof of Funds letter is your financial passport when buying a home. It demonstrates that you have the necessary liquid assets – be it cash, checks, or money in accounts – to cover the purchase costs, including the down payment and closing fees. For cash buyers, this letter shows you can cover the entire home cost. Without this assurance, sellers are often hesitant to consider offers seriously.

Why is it Important for Homebuyers?

The primary role of a POF letter is to legitimize your home purchase offer. In competitive housing markets, this letter can be a game-changer, setting you apart from other buyers who may not have immediate access to funds. However, in some scenarios, like a sale by owner without an agent, this letter might not be as crucial.

Acceptable Funds for Mortgage Proof

Various funds can make up your POF, including:

Money in checking and savings accounts
Liquidated investments or retirement accounts
Gift funds or grants
Bridge loans
Proceeds from pending sales
Remember, the key is liquidity. Assets like mutual funds or life insurance may not count if they can’t be readily liquidated.

Distinguishing Between Preapproval and Proof of Funds Letters

It’s important to differentiate between a mortgage preapproval letter and a POF letter. The former is a tentative nod from a lender about your loan eligibility, while the latter is concrete evidence of your financial capacity to make the purchase.

Getting Your Proof of Funds Letter

So, how do you get this all-important letter? Here are the steps:

Consolidate Your Funds: Ideally, merge your funds into one account well before seeking mortgage preapproval. This ‘seasoning’ of funds makes the process smoother.
Request from Your Bank: You might need to fill out a request form or visit your bank in person. Banks usually provide the letter within a few days.
Provide the Letter to the Seller: Once you have the letter, promptly share it with the lender and the seller, and keep a copy for your records.
Example of a Proof of Funds Letter

Here’s a sample template you might come across:



This letter certifies that [NAME OF INDIVIDUAL/COMPANY], a client since [YEAR], is in good standing with our bank. They hold a total balance of USD $[AMOUNT] in cash deposits.

Attached are the account statements for verification.

For further inquiries, contact us at [CONTACT INFORMATION].



Navigating the homebuying process requires understanding various documents and procedures. The Proof of Funds letter is one such document that can significantly impact your homebuying journey. By ensuring you have this letter, you demonstrate financial readiness and seriousness as a buyer, potentially making your path to homeownership smoother and more assured.

How to Stop Paying PMI

For many homeowners who opt for a conventional mortgage with less than a 20 percent down payment, Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) becomes a necessary part of their monthly expenses. PMI is an additional charge on your mortgage payment, primarily designed to protect the lender in case of default. However, there are several ways to eliminate this extra cost, which can save you a significant amount over the life of your mortgage.

When Does PMI Go Away?

The Homeowners Protection Act of 1998 set forth guidelines for the automatic termination of PMI. According to the Act, PMI must be removed by the lender once the borrower attains a 78 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. This means that when you have paid down your mortgage to 78 percent of the original purchase price of your home, PMI should be lifted automatically.

For instance, if you bought a home for $300,000, PMI would be removed when your mortgage principal falls to $234,000. It’s important to note that PMI costs decrease as you pay down your loan, and are completely removed when you reach the required LTV ratio.

How to Get Rid of PMI

While PMI can add hundreds to your monthly mortgage payment, there are several strategies to get rid of it:

1. Wait for Automatic or Final Termination
Under the Homeowners Protection Act, PMI is automatically terminated once your LTV ratio hits 78 percent. Alternatively, PMI must be cancelled at the midpoint of your loan’s amortization schedule, regardless of LTV ratio. This applies if you’ve been making regular payments and are in good standing with your lender.

2. Request PMI Cancellation at 80 Percent Mortgage Balance
You can request to cancel PMI when your mortgage balance reaches 80 percent of your home’s original value. This requires a proactive approach, including a written request to your lender and ensuring you meet other lender-specific requirements.

3. Pay Down Your Mortgage Early
Making larger or additional mortgage payments can expedite reaching 20 percent equity, allowing you to request PMI cancellation sooner.

4. Refinance Your Mortgage
Refinancing might be an option if you’re close to the 20 percent equity mark, especially if you can secure a loan that doesn’t require PMI.

5. Reappraise Your Home
In a thriving real estate market, your home’s value might increase enough to push your equity over the 20 percent mark, qualifying you for PMI cancellation.

6. Home Improvements
Significant improvements to your home might increase its value, potentially raising your equity to the required level for PMI cancellation.

Caution: Don’t Drain Your Assets

While eliminating PMI can be financially beneficial, it’s crucial not to deplete your savings or investment accounts in the process. Maintaining a balance of liquid assets for emergencies is a wise financial strategy.

Know Your Rights Under Federal Law

The Homeowners Protection Act ensures your right to eliminate PMI under specific conditions. Familiarize yourself with these provisions and keep track of your mortgage payments and home value. If you believe your lender is not complying with PMI removal regulations, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


Paying off your PMI can be a financially savvy move, saving you thousands over the life of your mortgage. By understanding the rules and keeping a vigilant eye on your mortgage balance and home value, you can take steps to remove this extra charge as soon as you’re eligible. Remember, the responsibility to initiate PMI cancellation often lies with you, the homeowner, so stay informed and proactive in managing your mortgage costs.

Using Your Home Equity to Buy A 2nd Home?

Homeowners often overlook the financial potential of their home equity, a valuable asset that can be used to purchase a second home. This equity, calculated as your home’s value minus any outstanding mortgage, can be accessed through two primary methods: a home equity loan or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A home equity loan offers a lump sum with a fixed interest rate, ideal for significant one-time expenses. In contrast, a HELOC provides a flexible, revolving line of credit with variable interest rates, akin to a credit card.

Using home equity to buy another home offers several advantages. It enables you to access substantial funds without depleting personal savings and allows you to retain ownership of your current home. Additionally, it can position you as a more competitive buyer, with the ability to make larger down payments or even full cash purchases. However, it also carries risks, such as the potential loss of your primary home if you cannot repay the loan, the burden of additional debt, and the possibility of negative equity in a declining market.

There are tax implications to consider when using home equity for real estate investment. Typically, the interest on home equity loans is tax-deductible when used for improvements on the property securing the loan. However, this deduction may not apply if the loan is used to purchase a separate property, like a vacation home.

For those considering using home equity for an investment property, it’s crucial to weigh the potential for high returns against the risks of financial strain. Investment properties can offer significant income opportunities, but they also pose the risk of underperformance, which can lead to financial challenges if the property doesn’t generate expected income.

Besides home equity loans and HELOCs, other financing options include obtaining a new mortgage on the second property, taking a loan from retirement savings, opting for a personal loan, considering a cash-out refinance, or exploring reverse mortgages (for homeowners over 62). Each option has its unique features and implications so please schedule a consultation on our website and we can review your individual options.