Mass Mortgage Refinancing Plan: Obama’s Ace In the Hole

Last updated on January 25th, 2018

We’ve heard talk of mass refinancing plans for years now, but nothing has quite delivered.

Sure, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was recently expanded to allow just about any homeowner to refinance, regardless of negative equity issues.

But since it was announced in late October, I haven’t heard too much about it. Perhaps because it’s voluntary for mortgage lenders and still comes with cumbersome underwriting requirements?

Now there’s word of a “true mass refinance program,” one that allows pretty much anyone to refinance to today’s super low mortgage rates with few, if any restrictions.

A blog post written by James Pethokoukis that appeared on the American Enterprise Institute website yesterday is grabbing some serious headlines at the moment regarding the supposed plan.

In short, it suggests that Obama is looking to replace the current FHFA director with one of his own, which will allow the President to implement such a program. Just in time for election season too (not that I want to get political about this).

And because the FHFA oversees both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, anyone with a mortgage guaranteed by the pair, which is most homeowners, will be able to participate.

How the Mass Mortgage Refinancing Plan Would Work

Apparently it would be modeled after a plan originally thought up by Columbia University economists Glenn Hubbard and Christopher Mayer.

Every homeowner with a Fannie/Freddie backed mortgage would be eligible to refinance their existing first mortgage to a fixed rate of 4% or less.

The only requirement would be that the homeowner is current on their mortgage, or that they become so for a minimum of three months.

Even those with FHA loans and VA loans would be eligible, though interest rates would be higher.

No other qualification criteria would be used – no appraisal requirement, no income verification, no asset documents, LTV limits, etc.

Homeowners would get the option of refinancing into a 30-year fixed or a 15-year fixed.

But only first mortgages can be refinanced, so any second mortgages would need to be resubordinated.

Why It Works

Fannie and Freddie would get higher guarantee fees for implementing the plan, and loan servicers would receive the right to originate/service the mortgages without being responsible for “reps and warranties” violations of past servicers.

Banks and mortgage lenders would be able to refinance the mortgages quickly and cheaply thanks to the lack of underwriting requirements.

Private mortgage insurers could continue to insure the mortgages, and with lower monthly payments the mortgages would be deemed safer.

Roughly 25 million homeowners would benefit from the program in the form of lower monthly mortgage payments, with estimated annual savings of $2,800 per homeowner, or $70 billion in aggregate reduced housing costs.

These lower mortgage payments would also serve to stabilize the housing market and reduce the risk of future defaults.

It could also motivate homeowners on the brink to stay current in order to participate, unlike many loan modification programs that only serve those who fall behind on payments.

This could effectively push home prices higher, easing home equity concerns for those “on the fence” about staying or going.

Additionally, taxpayers would stand to benefit because Fannie and Freddie would reduce their losses and lower mortgage payments would mean reduced mortgage interest deductions.

The only “loser” would be mortgage bondholders, which the economists argue have already benefited tremendously from government actions taken during the mortgage crisis.

Additionally, thanks to current roadblocks, the relatively slow rate of refinancing allowed these bondholders to benefit more than they would have historically.

So there you have it. A possible mass refinance program with very few constraints. Even ineligible borrowers would “benefit” indirectly if the housing market improved as a result.

Not that I’m sold on it.  There are still a ton of question marks, namely those who can’t afford even a reduced housing payment, those already in foreclosure, the excess housing inventory, the impact of future mortgage rates, etc, etc.

Regardless, it’s clear housing policy will play a major role in the upcoming election.

(photo: KE Design)

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

5 Mortgage Misconceptions Set Straight

Looking for a home loan? Get your facts straight so you can proceed with confidence.

Getting a mortgage can be a breeze or a slog, depending on what you know about the process. To get organized and set your expectations properly, let’s debunk some common mortgage myths.

1. Lenders use your best credit scores

If you’re applying for a mortgage jointly with a co-borrower, logic suggests that your lender would use the highest credit score between both of you.

However, lenders take the middle of three credit scores (from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) for each borrower, and then use the lowest score between both borrowers’ “middle scores.”

So, if you had a middle score of 780, and your co-borrower had a middle score of 660, most lenders would qualify and approve you using the 660 credit score.

Rates are tied to credit scores, so in this example, your rate would be based on the 660 credit score, which would push your rate up significantly — or potentially even make you ineligible for the loan.

There are exceptions to this lowest-case-credit-score rule. Most notably, if you have the higher credit score and are also the higher earner, some lenders will allow your higher credit score on the file — but this is mostly for jumbo loans above $417,000.

Ask your lender about exceptions if you have credit score disparity between co-borrowers, but know that these exceptions are rare.

2. The rate you’re quoted is the rate you’ll get

Unless you’re locking in a rate at the moment it’s quoted, that rate quote can change. Rates are tied to daily trading of mortgage bonds, so most lenders’ rates change throughout each day.

Refinancers can often lock a rate when it’s quoted — as long as you’ve given your lender enough information and documentation to determine if you qualify for the quoted rate.

You typically receive a quote when you’re beginning your pre-approval process, but a rate lock runs with a borrower and a property. So until you’ve found a home to buy, you can’t lock your rate. And while you’re home shopping, rates will be changing daily, so you’ll need updated quotes from your lender throughout your home shopping process.

Rate quotes also come with an annual percentage rate (APR), which is a federally required disclosure that shows what your rate would be if all loan fees are incorporated into the rate.

This can make you think that APR is the rate you’ll get, but your loan payment will always be based on your locked rate, and the APR is just a disclosure to help you understand fees.

3. Fixed-rate mortgages are always better than adjustable-rate mortgages

After the 2008 financial crisis, many borrowers started preferring 30-year fixed loans. For good reason too: The rate and payment on a 30-year fixed loan can never change. But the longer the rate is fixed for, the higher the rate.

So before settling on a 30-year fixed, ask yourself this question: How long am I going to own this home (or keep the loan) for?

Suppose the answer is five years. If you got a five-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) instead of a 30-year fixed, your rate would be about .875 percent lower. On a $200,000 loan, you’d save $146 per month in interest by taking the five-year ARM. On a $600,000 loan, the monthly interest cost savings is $438.

To optimize your home financing, peg the loan term as closely as you can to your expected time horizon in the home.

4. Real estate agents don’t care which lender you use

A federal law enacted in 1974 called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) prohibits lenders and real estate agents from paying each other fees to refer customers to each other. So as a mortgage shopper, you’re always free to use any lender you choose.

But real estate agents who would represent you as a buyer do care which lender you use. They’ll often suggest that you use a local lender who’s experienced with your area’s nuances, such as local taxation rules, settlement procedures and appraisal methodologies.

These areas are all part of the loan process and can delay or kill deals if a nonlocal lender isn’t experienced enough to handle them.

Likewise, real estate agents representing sellers on homes you’re interested in will often prioritize purchase offers based on the quality of loan approvals. Local lenders who are known and respected by listing agents give your purchase offers more credibility.

5. Mortgage insurance is always required if you put less than 20 percent down

Mortgage insurance is a lender-risk premium placed on many home loans when you’re putting less than 20 percent down. In short, it means your total monthly housing cost is higher. But you can buy a home with less than 20 percent down and avoid mortgage insurance.

The most common way to do this is with a combination first and second mortgage — often called a piggyback — where the first mortgage is capped at 80 percent of the home’s value, and the second mortgage is for the balance of what you want to finance.

Related:

Originally published January 12, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

What Are Altcoins? Guide to Bitcoin Alternatives

There are many alternative investments available for people who hope to grow their money—from age-old collectibles like baseball cards, to new and somewhat confusing assets, like NFTs. Another alternative investment is cryptocurrency—and within that category falls another “alt”: alt coins, better known as altcoins.

Altcoins are crypto coins that are an alternative to Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency and reigning crypto leader. There are many different altcoins—different types, and within those categories, different specific products.

This article covers everything you need to know about altcoins, including what they are, where to buy them, and examples of the more popular coins on the market. Familiarize yourself with altcoins here, then check out the top things you should know before investing in any cryptocurrency.

What Are Altcoins?

Bitcoin is just one of the myriad coins and tokens that comprise the cryptocurrency space. You’ve likely heard some of their names—such as Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin. These coins and cryptos are, in effect, alternatives to bitcoin.

“Altcoin” is a catch-all term for alternative cryptocurrencies to bitcoin. They’re altcoins. It’s that simple. Currently, there are more than 9,000 cryptocurrencies in existence. That’s a lot of altcoins.

How do Altcoins Work?

Like Bitcoin, altcoins rely on blockchain technology, which allows for secure, peer-to-peer transactions. But each altcoin operates independently from the rest, and each has its own sets of rules and uses. For example, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are mineable, whereas Ripple and Stellar are not.

That said, in general, most altcoins operate in much the same way: They’re traded among investors, with transactions recorded via blockchain in a distributed ledger.

Different Types of Altcoins

Most altcoins can be slotted into a few different categories, which can help potential crypto investors get a better grasp of the field. This is not an exhaustive list, as categories and subtypes are always changing. But here are some of the most prevalent types of altcoins:

Digital currencies

The digital currency category comprises most of the cryptocurrencies that investors are familiar with, including Bitcoin. They’re exactly what they sound like: currency in digital form. They can be acquired as a form of payment, through trading on an exchange, or through mining (when applicable), and are generally used to conduct transactions.

Tokens

Unlike crypto like Bitcoin or Ethereum, which can be used on any platform, tokens are tied to their parent platform. For example, Tether and Golem are tokens used only on the Ethereum platform.

A utility token provides holders with some sort of service. BAT (Basic Attention Token) is an example of a utility token, meant to be used specifically as a method of payment on the Brave open-source browser.

Stablecoins

Stablecoins are built to be stable—they are pegged to an existing asset like the Euro or the U.S. dollar. The logic is that by pegging the asset to an existing one, it should help stabilize value and reduce volatility.

In contrast, consider Bitcoin: while its value has risen substantially in recent years, its price is highly volatile. Values have dropped to less than $6,000 per coin to more than $60,000—all within a couple of years. Stablecoins are designed to reduce those wild fluctuations, and allow holders to sleep at night.

An example of a stablecoin is Libra (aka Diem), which is being developed by Facebook, and pegged to the dollar.

Common Altcoins

There are seemingly more and more altcoins hitting the market every day. Here are a few of the more common altcoins:

Ripple: Also known as “XRP,” this altcoin is used primarily on its namesake, the Ripple currency exchange system. It was designed for use by businesses and organizations, rather than individuals, as it’s most often used to move large amounts of money around the world.

Ethereum: Ethereum is a programmable internet platform used to build decentralized programs and applications, and its native currency, Ether (ETH), is the altcoin in question that can be traded by investors.

Litecoin: Litecoin is another popular altcoin, which is often referred to as “Bitcoin lite,” hence the moniker. It’s one of the largest and most popular cryptocurrencies on the market, and operates in a very similar way to Bitcoin.

Dogecoin: There are a bunch of “joke” altcoins that are on the market, and Dogecoin is perhaps the most recognizable right now. Dogecoin started as a joke (its genesis is actually an internet meme), although it has gained value in recent months.

Cardano: Cardano (ADA) allows developers to use the Cardano blockchain to write smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps). ADA crypto is required to run programs like dApps. Cardano is also used as a medium of exchange.

Where to Buy Altcoins?

Looking to buy altcoins? They’re available on most any cryptocurrency exchange, like Coinbase or Binance. You can even trade cryptocurrencies with SoFi Invest® (if you live in an eligible state). Not all altcoins may be available on every platform, so interested investors should do their research before choosing an exchange.

In terms of actually trading for coins, the process can be as simple as depositing money into an account on your preferred exchange, and then trading either dollars or crypto for a targeted altcoin.

The Takeaway

Altcoin is a catchall term for cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin, the original crypto. There are a variety of different altcoins—from tokens to stablecoins—but many are available for interested investors.

If you want to get your feet wet, you can get started trading certain cryptocurrencies and altcoins using SoFi Invest. You can get started with just $10, manage your transactions in the SoFi app, and rest assured that your holdings are securely protected against fraud and theft.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


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Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
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Source: sofi.com