These are the most competitive housing markets in the U.S.

These are the most competitive housing markets in the U.S.
In the most competitive housing markets in the country, virtually every buyer has immaculate credit, a few hundred thousand dollars – or more – for a downpayment and knows what their mortgage options are. Not that many of the buyers even need one.

Online lending marketplace LendingTree ranked the 50 most competitive metro areas in the U.S. based on specific financial criteria of homebuyers, and unearthed some interesting data.

Based on average down payment percentage, the share of homebuyers who have credit scores above 720, and the share of homebuyers who shop around for a mortgage before looking for a house, LendingTree determined that San Jose and San Francisco, two California markets, and Raleigh, N.C. are the three metros with the most competitive homebuyers.

LendingTree reviewed more than 750,000 mortgage loan requests that came through its marketplace from March 1 through March 24.

San Jose ranked first in both the “credit score” and “down payment” categories, pushing it to the top spot overall. LendingTree, ranked San Jose as just 17th in the “shopping around” category, important because generally it indicates prepared, educated buyers. But given that the city in the heart of Silicon Valley has a median home sale of $1.2 million, it’s likely that prospective homebuyers who aren’t shopping for mortgages simply don’t need them. In San Jose, 84.15% of buyers had a credit score of 720 or higher and the average downpayment was close to 23%, LendingTree’s analysis found.

In the nearby San Francisco housing market, where the average home sells for $1.4 million, 81.96% of buyers had a credit score of 720 or higher and the average downpayment was 21.43%. In up-and-coming Raleigh, where the median home price is $340,000, 70.48% of buyers had a credit score of 720 or higher and the average downpayment was 21.15%.

It’s only going to get harder to close on a home in 2021, said Tendayi Kapfidze, LendingTree chief economist.

“Buyers should be wary of feeling pressure to buy a home because of how competitive a market is,” said Kapfidze. “Buyers remorse on a home purchase happens often, and can affect emotional and financial wellness. Record low rates over the past year due to the COVID crisis have worsened the supply picture in an interesting way. Homeowners who refinanced now have rates that lock them in, as selling and purchasing another home would mean giving up their record low rate.”

Other cities that made LendingTree’s list of most competitive metros were Portland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston, Kansas City, New York, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.

The least competitive homebuyers in the country can be found in Virginia Beach, according to LendingTree, followed by Riverside, California, and Atlanta. Homes in those three cities are being sold for, on average, $314,000, $314,000 and $322,000, respectively, per and Zillow.

The housing markets that made up the rest of LendingTree’s list of least competitive metros were Memphis, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Oklahoma City; Jacksonville, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Richmond, Virginia.

The average down payment percentage in the top 11 most competitive metros was 21%, per LendingTree’s data. In those 11 metros, 62% of buyers shopped around for a mortgage before looking for a home. Across the 50 largest metros in the country, that number was 64%.
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HousingWire’s 2021 Women of Influence nominations are open!

HousingWire’s 2021 Women of Influence nominations are open!

First introduced in 2010, HousingWire’s Women of Influence award recognizes outstanding women in housing who are moving markets and paving the way for other women around them to do the same.

Last year’s winners were truly outstanding and exemplified what it means to be a leader in both their organizations and their communities. Here are just a few their accomplishments:

Since Pam Faulkner joined SimpleNexus in February 2019, the company posted quadruple-digit growth and has grown its team to include well over 100 employees as of last year.Dana Fortin led Embrace Home Loans to become the first lender in the mortgage industry to use geolocation to target homebuyers when they are most engaged in looking for a home. Mortgage banking attorney Christina Jenkins was peer nominated, and accepted, into induction as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation in 2020 – an honor limited to 1% of lawyers licensed to practice in each jurisdiction.Risha Kilaru funded more than $329 million in total loan volume, ranking as the fourth top producer at Guaranteed Rate in 2019. Annette Lowder was a driving force behind Intercap Lending’s quick rise from less than $50 million in production per year to nearly $2 billion in annual production last year.

Each year we see continue to be blown away by the submissions we see coming in and we can’t wait to see what’s to come for 2021.

Nominations for 2021 Women of Influence close April 23rd, click here to submit a nominee. For more information about program, including past winners and FAQs check out our program page.
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Notarize invites independent notaries to utilize software

Notarize invites independent notaries to utilize software
Notarize announced Wednesday that it will now allow independent notaries – of which there are 4.4 million in the U.S. – to utilize its software and platform for their own independent transactions.

The software will be available to notaries in Washington and Tennessee in May and Notarize officials said the other 29 RON-approved states will have access by the end of the summer.

Once a notary creates an account with Notarize, they are supplied with a Notary training program and support while using RON transactions.

“In 2020, we saw the need for digital tools that allow business and life to keep moving forward safely and securely, and we know that’s what notaries need now, and into the future,” said Ashley Spiess, Notarize senior director of operations and strategy. “The 4.4 million notaries in the U.S. are some of the most entrepreneurial, driven and diligent professionals in the country, and in-line with that, notaries are constantly looking for ways to expand their business, self-market, grow their income and build and strengthen preferred partnerships.”

Notarize estimates that there are 1.25 billion notarizations completed every year – including powers of attorney, beneficiary designations, real estate transactions and mortgages. More than 100 million notarizations require a seal and a signature each month.

Navigating Closing Struggles in 2021’s Purchase Market

In this webinar, we’ll provide the most current information on hybrid and full eNote eClosings, discuss the increases happening in eNote adoption, define the progression happening in eNotarization including RON, and discuss key criteria to successfully implementing your eClosing strategy.

Presented by: First American Docutech

Work-from-home quickly became the national norm as businesses across the country shut down due to health concerns. The sudden drop in face-to-face communication caused many in the housing industry to rethink how they conduct business. Notarize officials said the COVID-19 outbreak “drove a spike” in notarization requests.

“As communities across the country commit to social distancing, it’s leaving many of the nation’s professional notaries unable to meet in-person – and therefore, out of work,” said Pat Kinsel, Notarize CEO. “The only safe option is to conduct these notarizations online. The notarial process, rooted in face-to-face interaction for hundreds of years, cannot function amidst a life-threatening pandemic.”

Kinsel said in December that Notarize saw 600% growth in 2020, highlighting the increasing demand for the social distancing-friendly technology. In October, FinLedger reported that it formed a partnership with Adobe to integrate Notarize’s RON capability into Adobe Sign, Adobe’s e-signature platform.

Kinsel said the proverbial genie is out of the bottle for digital transformation.

“There’s no going back to the manual, slow, in-person ways of the past when RON closes the ‘last mile’ of many transactions and saves people time and money, all while offering elevated security and fraud protection,” he said. “Almost every business has been forced to redesign every customer interaction. It’s no longer possible for someone to safely pop in to sign something. If the industry can continue to reimagine how they serve their clients and rewire how they work, RON should and will be further implemented.“ 
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Does CFPB have authority to postpone foreclosures?

Does CFPB have authority to postpone foreclosures?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a proposed rule on Monday that would bar servicers from starting on foreclosures until 2022. The CFPB also proposed streamlined processes for moving homeowners out of forbearance and in to loss mitigation options. However, since the announcement, several industry leaders have expressed reservations about the blanket policy.

“My concern is that the bureau is overstepping its bounds and violating in essence agreements that have already been previously made,” said Dave Stevens, chief executive officer of Mountain Lake Consulting and former CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

According to the CFPB, streamlining the process would allow servicers to get homeowners into less burdensome payments at a much quicker pace. But data shows that servicers are already serving borrowers well.

At the peak of forbearance, nearly 6 million borrowers were in some form of forbearance, but over half of those homeowners have since exited. According to MBA data, close to 86% of those who have exited did so with some sort of plan in place or they simply continued making their payments while they were in forbearance.

“I think the math speaks for itself how well the forbearance program has worked, and it’s one of the few times in my career that I have seen a government-initiated program adopted as well and executed as well by the industry as this one,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of RealtyTrac.

Both the FHFA and FHA have been clear that they want to give homeowners in COVID-related forbearance enough time for a soft landing, kicking the can down the road months at a time to avoid a foreclosure cliff. Foreclosures themselves are already the last options for servicers – the process is expensive, time consuming, and involves complicated litigation, depending on the state.

The CARES Act caused some confusion among servicers when it was first passed, however, Stevens worries that a foreclosure halt could potentially hurt relationships with investors long term.

“What they are doing is getting involved in a very complex process and it may be forcing servicers to violate covenants of the investor who bought the loan, and that’s the real challenge,” said Stevens. “They have a responsibility to protect consumers’ interest, but to now come in and intervene in areas of mortgage lending that have already been pre-litigated with rule-making created under a similar democratic regime creates a lot of confusion and distrust, which is the last thing we need right now.”

Some industry leaders expected the foreclosure proposal to more closely mirror that of the HAMP program, a series of initiatives during the Obama administration that took a more prescriptive approach for servicers to follow. Under HAMP, servicers extended the terms of loans after borrowers exited forbearance, lowered interest rates, deferred the principal balance and then walked borrowers through their options. The program expired in 2016.

“I was surprised we went all the way to the end game,” Sharga said. “Candidly, I’m not sure the CFPB has the legal standing to disrupt a contract law across the country, especially as some of these are private loans and there is a contract made between the borrower and lender. This is the first time the CFPB has really tried to interject itself in this dramatic manner. So I do suspect if they come out with this ruling, we might see legal challenges to it by somebody in the industry.”

Monday’s foreclosure proposal will be open for public comment until May 11 and would not go in to effect until the beginning of September, depending on industry response. Since its release, some organizations have already publicly commented on the CFPB’s recent actions.

Wells Fargo, one of the largest servicers in the U.S., said it supports the CFPB’s latest proposal and looks forward to commenting on it while simultaneously working with the organization to choose the best course of action for consumers.

“We are committed to working with the CFPB and other government agencies, the mortgage industry, community leaders, mortgage investors/guarantors and others in determining how to best serve our customers and communities, particularly racially and ethnically diverse communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic,” Wells Fargo said.

Carissa Robb, president and chief operating officer of Constant AI, a fintech providing automated loss mitigation, said the proposal could have potentially negative consequences on the larger housing market.

“Whether you agree to disagree with the proposal, the industry should also prepare for the consequences of such a moratorium, including the fact the strength of the housing market today may suffer, reducing property values and increasing deficiencies post-sale as an abundance of distressed properties flood the market over the next 24+ months,” Robb said.

“It will also introduce an increase of strategic defaults where the proposed regulations weaken the ability to enforce delinquency consequences; this population and credit risk is separate and apart from those exposed by unfair actions of servicers. We’re more than a year into the pandemic and more than a decade past the Great Recession – we have the tools and experience to do a better job at mitigating loss this time around,” Robb said.

The MBA’s current president and CEO, Robert Broeksmit, wrote an article today pointing out that the CFPB’s own 2020 consumer response report demonstrates how well servicers have been helping borrowers in forbearance. While overall, consumer complaints to the CFPB were up 54% year-over-year, complaints against mortgage companies were up just 7.5%, and complaints against mortgage servicers were actually down, by 3.5%.

In less than 10 weeks, Broeksmit noted, mortgage servicers successfully helped 4.3 million Americans enter forbearance plans. And according to Black Knight, servicers have advanced almost $19 billion in unpaid principal and interest to investors in the past year.

“We have a long and uneven road ahead of us, but the past has been insightful; no one wins when a loan fails,” Broeksmit said. “The ability for the industry and mortgage servicers to overcome the obstacles created by COVID-19 will depend on our ability to work together, listen and learn, and keep the best interests of the nation’s borrowers and lenders front and center.”

The CFPB has said it is watching servicers closely as they manage borrowers in forbearance. Last week the Bureau warned servicers that it is ramping up enforcement and will be specifically watching how they manage borrowers coming out of forbearance. This followed an earlier announcement where the Bureau announced it was rescinding seven of its temporary policies with special COVID flexibilities, effective April 1.
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Tired of renting? 6 signs you’re ready to buy your first home

Tired of renting? 6 signs you’re ready to buy your first home
Chances are, you know someone who owns a home. Whether it’s a sibling, friend, or co-worker, you’ve seen someone go through the first-time home buying process – and it probably looked really complicated. At least, more complicated than simply paying rent to a landlord every month. 

While owning a home is rewarding, the process can be a lot of work. Not to mention, expensive. But that doesn’t necessarily mean renting is better. In fact, depending on where you live, your monthly rent could be more expensive than your monthly mortgage. (Yes, seriously.)

Have you been renting for a while? Are you finally ready to put down some roots? Here are six signs that prove you’re ready to buy your first home:

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1. Your Rent Payments Keep Increasing

Rent prices are currently skyrocketing. Zumper, an apartment rental app, reported the price of a one-bedroom unit jumped 1.1% from February 2021 to March 2021. A two-bedroom saw a 0.9% increase. If you’ve been renting for a while, you’ve probably seen first-hand just how much rent prices can rise from year to year. And unfortunately, prices are only going to continue to rise as the housing market remains strong. 

A monthly mortgage, on the other hand, doesn’t usually increase for homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages. This means, if you own a home, you don’t have to worry about your landlord increasing your rent by $50 dollars every year (which is something long-term renters know all too well).

2. Your Income Is Stable

How are your finances? If they’re in good shape, you might become a first-time homebuyer. A stable income means you’re more likely to be approved for a loan, than someone with an unstable income. Not to mention, if your finances are solid, you’ll be able to afford all those extra housing expenses. For example, new appliances, furniture or repairs when something breaks.

3. You’re Actively Paying Down Debt 

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be debt-free to own a home. Sure, it would be nice. But with the amount of dept most American’s have, it’s not exactly realistic. Because of this, today’s lenders are more than willing to work with potential first-time homebuyers who have debt, just as long as their debt-to-income ratio (DTI) isn’t too high. 

Most lenders prefer borrowers with a DTI lower than 36%. If your DTI is in good standing and you’re consciously working to manage and pay down your debt, you might be ready to buy a house!

4. You Know Where Your Life Is Headed

Not only have you been at your job for a while, but you have a pretty good idea of where your life is headed in the next few years. You don’t plan on changing careers or moving across the country for a change of scenery. You have a plan, and it includes staying exactly where you are. If that’s the case, why not put down some permanent roots and purchase a home?

5. You Have A Good Credit Score 

Have you been renting for years? Then, you might not know what your credit score is. Or, more importantly, whether it’s high enough to get approved for a loan to buy a house. For most loans, a good credit score is what dictates whether you can afford to buy or not. Lenders usually want a score around 690 and higher. But even with a credit score as low as 500, you could be approved for a loan. 

If you’ve been spending within your means and paying down your debt, your credit score is probably in good shape.

6. You Have Savings 

Buying and owning a house is expensive. Besides a down payment, you have closing costs which on average run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. And let’s not forget about additional expenses like furniture, appliances, movers, electricity, water, etc. You should have a good amount of money saved before you even consider buying.

Are You Ready To Buy Your First Home?

At some point, most of us will eventually decide to stop renting and take the leap to homeownership. If your finances are stable, you have savings and your credit is in good shape, you might be ready to take that leap and become a first-time homebuyer.
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Home sellers are feeling good about 2021

Home sellers are feeling good about 2021
Home sellers are chomping at the bit. As the economy reopens, vaccinations continue to roll out and stimulus checks reach bank accounts across America, home sellers are increasingly optimistic.

And despite fierce bidding wars, competition from institutional investors and sore wrists from writing dozens of heartfelt letters to home sellers, even buyers are growing in courage these days.

Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), a composite index designed to track the housing market and consumer confidence to sell or buy a home, increased in March by 5.2 points to 81.7.

Four of the HPSI’s six components increased month over month, including the components related to homebuying and home selling conditions, household income, and home prices. The mortgage rate outlook component experienced the only decline in March’s HPSI, with the latest results indicating that only 6% of consumers believe that mortgage rates will decrease over the next 12 months.

Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan said the March HPSI increase reflects consumer optimism toward the housing market and the economy in general.

Real estate agents and LOs: the great collaboration

Technology has given consumers the power of choice and expedited the entire real estate purchasing process. Successful agents, brokerages and loan officers of the future are going to rely significantly on technology to find, nurture and engage with buyers and home sellers while also playing an expanding role as personal advisors.

Presented by: Propertybase

“There might even more intensity this year, since 2020’s spring homebuying season was limited by virus-related lockdowns,” Duncan said. “Home-selling sentiment experienced positive momentum across most consumer segments, nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels and generally indicative of a strong home seller’s market.”

Duncan added that home sellers are citing high home prices and tight inventory as primary reasons why it’s a good time to sell.

“Alternatively, while the net ‘good time to buy’ component increased month over month, it has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, as the homebuying experience continues to prove difficult for many of the same reasons,” he said.

(The percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to buy a home increased from 48% to 53%, while the percentage who say it is a bad time to buy decreased from 43% to 40%.)

Mortgage applications decreased 2.2%, according to the March 31 report from the Mortgage Bankers Association. However, purchase activity during the last week of March was up 6% year-over-year, with the unadjusted purchase index 39% higher than the same week one year prior.

That’s largely reflected in the HPSI. The percentage of respondents who believe it is a good time to sell a home increased from 55% to 61%, while the percentage who say it’s a bad time to sell decreased from 35% to 28%.

The percentage of respondents who believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months increased from 47% to 50%, while the percentage who say home prices will go down decreased from 18% to 14%. The share who think home prices will stay the same remained unchanged at 29%.

Only a handful of people thought mortgage rates would tick down in the next year, at 6%, a decrease from 8% the prior month. Mortgage rates are officially out of the 2% range homebuyers were taking advantage of in 2020, with the most recent report showing rates at 3.27% for a vanilla 30-year fixed mortgage.

Higher rates aside, consumers seem to be feeling better about the economy, as the percentage of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago increased from 17% to 25%, while the percentage who say their household income is significantly lower decreased from 19% to 15%. The percentage who say their household income is about the same decreased from 61% to 56%.

Likewise, the percentage of respondents who are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months remained unchanged at 82%, while the percentage who say they are concerned also remained unchanged at 17%.
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Rising rates push mortgage applications down for fifth week

Rising rates push mortgage applications down for fifth week
Mortgage applications decreased for the fifth straight week – this time down 5.1%, according to the latest report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

As has been the case for several weeks now, rising mortgage rates and low inventory are contributing to the slowdown in mortgage applications, said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.

“The rapidly recovering economy and improving job market is generating sizeable home-buying demand, but activity in recent weeks is constrained by quicker home-price growth and extremely low inventory,” Kan said.

Refinance mortgage applications declined for the fifth straight week. The refinance index decreased 5% from the previous week and was 20% lower than the same week one year ago. Kan said refinancing volume over the past 10 weeks is down by more than 30%.

For purchase mortgage applications, bidding wars and appraisal gaps are discouraging some buyers from looking at existing homes, while high costs for lumber and building materials are pushing up the price of new homes.

The 30-year fixed rate moved up to 3.6% after registering at 3.33% last week. And even though the unadjusted purchase index dropped 4% from the past week, it’s still sitting 51% higher than the same week last year.

The FHA share of total mortgage applications decreased to 10.2% from 11.3% from the week prior. However, the VA share of total mortgage applications increased to 13.38% from 10.3% the week prior.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of this week’s mortgage application data:

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 3.36% from 3.33%The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $548,250) increased to 3.41% from 3.34%The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.36% from 3.29% The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.74% from 2.71%The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 2.92% from 2.85%
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