What the Fed Says and How It Impacts Mortgage Rates [LIVE POST]

I am going to attempt to write a “live post” today to illustrate how mortgage rates may change based on data that is released throughout the day and market reactions. Please keep in mind that despite my best efforts, sometimes a “live post” can be a bit challenging…we’ll give it a try!

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What the Fed Said

This morning the FOMC Minutes from last months meeting and it’s causing a stir in the bond markets. The minutes reveal some members of the Committee wanting to pull back on the purchasing of mortgage backed securities by the end of this year. Mortgage interest rates are based on MBS (bonds) and the indication of no longer having the Feds hand in keeping mortgage rates artificially low is causing the bond market to be slightly off this morning.

Here are some “minute bits” relating to mortgage interest rates that I found interesting:

“The staff also reported on potential risks to financial stability, including those associated with the current low interest rate environment. Some observers have suggested that a lengthy period of low long-term rates could encourage excessive risk-taking that could have adverse consequences for financial stability at some point in the future….

Participants generally saw conditions in the housing market as having improved further over the intermeeting period. Rising house prices were strengthening household balance sheets by raising wealth and by increasing the ability of some homeowners to refinance their mortgages at lower rates. Such a dynamic was seen as potentially leading to a virtuous cycle that could help support household spending and financial market conditions over time….

…most participants saw asset purchases as having a meaningful effect in easing financial conditions and so supporting economic growth. Some expressed the view that these effects had likely been stronger during the Federal Reserve’s initial large-scale asset purchases because that program also helped support market functioning during the financial crisis. Other participants, however, saw little evidence that the efficacy of asset purchases had declined over time, and a couple of these suggested that the effectiveness of purchases might even have increased more recently, as the easing of credit constraints allowed more borrowers to take advantage of lower interest rates….

Participants generally agreed that asset purchases also have potential costs and risks. In particular, participants pointed to possible risks to the stability of the financial system, the functioning of particular financial markets, the smooth withdrawal of monetary accommodation when it eventually becomes appropriate, and the Federal Reserve’s net income….

to the extent that asset purchases push down longer-term interest rates, they potentially expose financial markets to a rapid rise in those rates in the future, which could impose significant losses on some investors and intermediaries….

Overall, most meeting participants thought the risks and costs of additional asset purchases remained manageable, but also that continued close attention to these issues was warranted. A few participants noted that curtailing the purchase program was the most direct way to mitigate the costs and risks….

Want more? You can read the minutes from the March FOMC meeting here.

What we do know is where mortgage interest rates are today… which is what I refer to as “artificially” low thanks to the Fed.  

It’s a limited opportunity for home owners to refinance and to create more cash flow (especially considering the increase in payroll tax) and to reduce the interest paid on their mortgage and for home buyers to secure a long term low mortgage rate on their next home.

If you are considering buying or refinancing a home located in Redmond, Renton, West Seattle or anywhere in Washington state, I’m happy to help you!

FOMC Minutes and Tid Bits

Yesterday the Fed released minutes from last month’s FOMC meeting. The minutes reveal the committee is debating easing or ceasing the purchase of mortgage backed securities before the end of this year. 

A number of participants stated that an ongoing evaluation of the efficacy, costs, and risks of asset purchases might well lead the Committee to taper or end its purchases before it judged that a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market had occurred.

The Fed cannot continue to keep mortgage rates at their manipulated lows forever. Industry experts estimate that if the Fed was not involved with keeping mortgage rates low with the buying of mortgage backed securities, rates would be closer to “jumbo” rates (about a full point higher in rate).

Other points I of interest from the minutes – at least to me 🙂  

…some participants were concerned that the recent increase in the payroll tax could have a significant negative effect on spending, particularly on the part of lower-income consumers.

Effective the beginning of this year, did you notice your pay check is 2% less? Congress allowed the expiration of the payroll tax cut to expire during the “fiscal cliff”. During 2011 and 2012, Americans caught a break and only paid 4.2% of their incomes for social security; we’re now back to paying 6.2%. If your monthly gross income is $5000, then your monthly take home pay is $100 less than what you had before this payroll tax.

If you’re a home owner who has not refinanced in the last year, you may want to contact your local mortgage professional to see if it makes sense. Reducing your mortgage rate can help off set the payroll tax and reduce the amount of interest you’re paying on your mortgage.  Click here if you would like a rate quote for homes located anywhere in Washington state.

Participants remarked on the ongoing recovery in the housing market, pointing variously  to rising house prices, growth in residential construction and sales, and the lower inventory of homes for sale. A number of participants thought it likely that higher home values and low mortgage rates were helping support other sectors of the economy as well, and a couple saw the housing market as having the potential to cause overall growth to be stronger than expected this year…

In the greater Seattle area, home prices continue to increase and I’m hearing from home buyers that they wish there was more inventory to chose from. If you’ve been considering selling your home, this could be a good time to meet with a real estate agent. If you need me to refer one to you, I’m happy to do so! 

….Nonetheless, it was noted that mortgage credit remained tight and the fraction of homeowners with mortgage balances exceeding the value of their homes remained high.

Those seeking a mortgage, whether it’s for refinancing or buying a home do need to qualify and it is a “full doc” process. However, it’s not impossible. You need to be prepared to provide all income and asset documents, have steady employment and good credit. If you are considering buying a home (or even refinancing) in the next 12 months, I recommend starting with a preapproval now. 

Home owners who are still upside down with the loss of their home equity may still be able to take advantage of today’s low rates if:

  • they qualify for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP 2.0). This is eligible for conforming mortgages securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009 on primary residences, second homes or investment properties. Or…
  • the existing mortgage to refinance is FHA, an FHA streamlined refinance may be possible for primary residence or investment properties. Or…
  • the existing mortgage is VA or USDA. 

If you are looking at buying a home or refinancing anywhere in the state of Washington, I’m happy to help you!