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Source: ABC News
Buying a home may have gotten a little easier this week.
With the financial crisis and subprime mortgage bust receding further into history, the government is loosening some financial rules, hoping to inject more life into the country’s still-recovering housing market.
Both banks and borrowers stand to benefit from the new rules unveiled Tuesday by six federal agencies. While banks will see relaxed guidelines for packaging and selling mortgage securities, fewer borrowers likely will need to make hefty down payments. The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the new rules, and two other agencies approved them as well. The Federal Reserve has scheduled a vote for Wednesday, and two other agencies are expected to adopt the rules soon.
The regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20-percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn’t hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books. The long-delayed final rules include the less stringent condition that borrowers not carry excessive debt relative to their income.
The rules for the multitrillion-dollar market for mortgage securities will take effect in a year. For other kinds of securities such as those bundling together auto loans or commercial loans, which don’t allow banks an exemption from the 5-percent rule, the effective date is in two years.
The rules, first proposed in 2011, were mandated by the overhaul law enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The idea was to limit the kind of risky lending that brought on the crisis. If banks have more of their own money invested in mortgage securities — so-called “skin in the game” — they won’t be as likely to take excessive risks, the thinking goes.
Some critics warned that abandoning the 20-percent down payment condition could bring a return to the dangerous days of borrowers taking on heavy mortgage loans that they aren’t in a position to repay.
After three years of interagency haggling, the regulators’ final, compromise approach was to adopt the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s definition of a “qualified” mortgage. It excludes the kind of risky practices that fueled the crisis, such as mortgages issued without any supporting documents from borrowers.
CFPB Director Richard Cordray, a member of the FDIC board, noted at Tuesday’s meeting that conditions in the mortgage market have changed since the financial crisis, when anxiety over reckless lending gripped lawmakers.
“Credit has dried up for a long period and (lending) standards have tightened dramatically,” he said.
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KIRKLAND, Washington (Oct. 6, 2014) – Pending sales of homes around Western Washington surged more than 13 percent in September compared to a year ago, and listing activity picked up slightly, fueling both broker optimism and words of advice for sellers.
Along with increases in the number of mutually accepted offers, the latest report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service shows year-over-year gains in the number of closed sales (up 4.6 percent) and prices (up 2.5 percent). Inventory for its service area, which encompasses 21 counties in Western and Central Washington, declined slightly (just under 1.2 percent).
Commenting on September’s activity, industry veteran Gary O’Leyar said he expects the Greater Puget Sound real estate market will maintain a “healthy glow” in 2015 so long as there is no radical increase in interest rates. “I foresee a general leveling off in overall market activity as prices approach the affordability ceiling for many buyers,” remarked O’Leyar, the designated broker/owner of Prudential Signature Properties in Seattle.
Northwest MLS members reported 8,875 pending sales during September to outpace the year-ago total of 7,839 pendings. The volume tapered off about 5 percent from the August figure of 9,342 mutually accepted offers. All but one of the 21 counties served by the MLS reported year-over-year increases.
The number of closed sales for September also rose, climbing from 6,711 a year ago to 7,020 for a 4.6 percent increase. Prices on those sales were up 2.5 percent.
The median price on last month’s closed sales of single family homes and condominiums was $285,000, which compares to the year-ago figure of $278,000. Five counties reported double-digit increases (Grant, Jefferson, Kittitas, Lewis, and San Juan). King County prices jumped 9.1 percent from twelve months ago, rising from $384,925 to $420,000.
The median price for September’s single family home sales (excluding condos) rose more than 2.2 percent, increasing from $291,000 a year ago to $297,500. In King County, the surge was 9.5 percent.
OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, noted luxury home sales in the Greater Seattle area have been very strong, with agents reporting stiff competition in certain segments of the market, especially for homes over $2 million. “I attribute this to Seattle’s economic boom, which is attracting an increasing number of high-paying, executive level professionals and international interest,” he remarked.
Despite keen interest in high-end homes, overpriced homes will not draw offers, cautioned Northwest MLS director Diedre Haines. “It is extremely important for sellers to know if their house is overpriced, it may not garner offers and will eventually sell for below market,” she declared, adding, “This is an absolute that has always been the case, in all market conditions, and all locations!”
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