Thursday, May 3, 2012

Survey: Moves for Job Relocations on the Rise

After a slowdown in corporate moves the past few years, more companies are planning to get their employees moving, according to a new survey. Twenty-six percent of companies plan to relocate more workers this year than last year, according to the 2012 Corporate Relocation Survey, conducted by Atlas Van Lines. The top places for corporate moves is the Northeast (42 percent), followed by the Midwest (37 percent), South (31 percent), and the West (26 percent). The Atlas Van Lines survey also found that: 86% of companies plan to spend as much or more on relocation in 2012 than in 2011. More companies are also now offering relocating employees full reimbursement, not just lump sum or partial reimbursement. 52% of all relocations last year were for new hires. The most frequently moved employee in 2011 are employees aged 36-40. Some Employees Decline to Move In 2011, 57 percent of companies say that employees declined a relocation. The top reasons that employees said they did not want to relocate: Housing and mortgage concerns: 71% Family issues/ties: 64% Personal reasons: 42% Source: Atlas Van Lines, 2012 Corporate Relocation Trends

Lawmakers Accuse FHFA of Blocking Mortgage Reduction Plan

Two Democratic lawmakers are claiming that the Federal Housing Finance Agency failed to roll out a nationwide mortgage reduction principal plan for underwater home owners even though a pilot program the agency did two years ago showed that it could significantly trim taxpayers’ costs. Two House members -- Reps. Elijah Cummins, D-Md., and John Tierney, D-Mass. -- are alleging in a letter that Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the FHFA, “apparently has been withholding from Congress” documents that show the benefits of mortgage principal reduction program, reports. "Based on the documents we have obtained, it appears that the shared equity principal reduction pilot program should have been implemented years ago, and the failure to do so may have resulted in unnecessary losses to U.S. taxpayers," Cummings and Tierney wrote in the letter. According to reports, the FHFA, which regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, participated in a pilot program with Citibank in 2009 that included reducing underwater homeowners mortgage principal. The Democratic lawmakers claim the pilot program showed “principal reduction programs have enormous potential to save U.S. taxpayers significant amounts of money” and significantly decreased re-default rates among home owners who had their mortgages reduced. The program was suspended in July 2010, as well as a similar program the FHFA was conducting with Wells Fargo. The agency said it discontinued the pilot program because the banks did not agree to expand the program. In recent months, the FHFA has refused to reduce mortgage principles on underwater home owners, despite mounting pressure from government officials who claim that such a program would curtail foreclosures and the number of home owners walking away from their home. The agency has argued that such a move would be costly to taxpayers and that other relief measures would be less costly, such as loan forbearance. The Democratic lawmakers claim that some Fannie Mae officials reportedly had estimated that based on the pilot program reducing underwater home owners’ mortgage principal would cost the agency about $1.7 million but could potentially save taxpayers more than $410 million. “Most Americans that are underwater on their mortgage realize they've signed a contract -- they’ve got an obligation to make that payment and in fact they are," DeMarco has said. DeMarco in recent weeks has agreed to review the FHFA’s opposition to mortgage principal reductions for underwater home owners with both Fannie and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages. "The FHFA continues to work on its principal forgiveness analysis and is in discussions with the Department of the Treasury," a spokeswoman said. "A final determination ... is being deferred until we conclude these activities." Source: “Housing Finance Chief Blocked Plan to Reduce Mortgage Principal, Congressmen Say,” (May 1, 2012); "Fannie Mae Tried Loan-Forgiveness Program,” The Wall Stret Journal (May 1, 2012); and “U.S. Housing Regulator Fires Back in Mortgage Flap,” Reuters News (May 1, 2012)

Monday, April 30, 2012

For Your Customers: 3 Tips for Landing a Mortgage

Many home buyers complain that one of the biggest hurdles they face is qualifying for financing. So what are some ways that home shoppers can ensure they qualify for a better mortgage deal — particularly one that takes advantage of the near record-breaking low mortgage rates? A recent article at Money Magazine highlighted some of the following tips when shopping for a mortgage: 1. High credit scores count. The lowest mortgage rates go to home shoppers with credit scores of 760 or higher. Avoid opening new lines of credit or loans for at least three months prior to getting a loan. Also, on your open accounts, try to pay off those balances. “One large balance — even if it’s paid off at the end of the month — can ding your score by 20 points or more,” according to the article at Money Magazine. 2. Gather plenty of quotes. Most experts say shopping around can pay off. Gather at least six quotes from lenders on mortgage rates because they can vary quite a bit from lender to lender. Request quotes from local and regional lenders as well as national ones for comparison. Be sure to ask about estimated closing costs, too, which can be anywhere from 2 percent or more of the loan balance. 3. Ask about lock-ins. To make sure the rate doesn’t go up when you’re under contract, ask about a lock-in period on the loan, in which lenders agree to not raise the interest rate within a certain time period. Home shoppers should ask their lender and REALTOR® how long it takes to close loans similar to theirs and see how long they can lock a rate in for. Some lenders will charge several hundred dollars to extend a lock-in agreement, so experts recommend learning the lock-in terms beforehand when shopping for the best mortgage deal. Source: “6 Ways to Get a Great Mortgage Deal,” Money Magazine (April 30, 2012)

Bidding Wars Catch Buyers Off-Guard

Home buyers are unexpectedly finding more competition this spring in landing their dream home. Bidding wars are increasingly being reported in markets across the country, from California to Florida, The Wall Street Journal reports. "It's a little surprising because we thought bidding wars were done with," Andy Aley, a home shopper in Seattle, told The Wall Street Journal. Aley says he was outbid on a home earlier this year, even though he offered to pay $23,000 above the listing price and also waive inspections and other closing conditions. Home buyers are frustrated and caught off-guard about the bidding wars re-emerging, real estate professionals report. "We're writing a record number of offers, but we're not seeing a record number of closings and that's because it's so competitive," Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin Corp., told The Wall Street Journal. Why are things getting so competitive? Many housing markets are seeing a drastic decrease in the number of homes listed for-sale, leaving home buyers with fewer options and more bidding on the same house. Housing analysts say the shortage in supply is from sellers unwilling to take much less for their home than what they originally paid for it and pulling their homes off the market. Also, a surge in investors has made the market more competitive, as investors snatch up homes in bulk in all-cash deals. “The bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Indeed, the National Association of REALOTRS® reported late last week that pending home sales in March reached their highest level in nearly two years and are up 12.8 percent from a year ago. Source: “Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars Are Back,” The Wall Street Journal (April 27, 2012)