Category Archives: Mortgage/Rates

Home Ownership as an Investment, Home Prices, Inflation, Leverage & Home Equity

First and foremost, any home purchased needs to work as a home: it fulfills your housing needs at an affordable monthly cost – ideally, a cost, after tax deductions and principal pay-down, less than or similar to that of renting the property. However, though it cannot be compared on an apples-to-apples basis to investments such as stocks, bonds and CDs (that you don’t live in), it’s worth looking at the issue of homeownership as a financial investment as well.

Home-Price Appreciation vs. CPI Inflation since 1988

This chart compares, over 25 years, the amount of inflation per the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to price appreciation for high-price-tier homes in the 5-county San Francisco Metro Area per the Case-Shiller Index. (Most of the City of San Francisco’s housing is in the high-price tier, the upper third of Bay Area unit sales.) In this chart, 1988 equals a price-value of 100; 127 equals a price 27% higher than the price in 1988 for the same goods or house. CPI inflation is relatively slow and steady: the average across the past 25 years is a little less than 3% per year. Home prices, however, jump dramatically up (appreciation) and down (depreciation) depending on the market cycle, but average appreciation from 1988 to mid-2013 was about 5% per year – though this calculation can vary greatly by the exact start and end dates chosen.

An average SF Metro Area home purchased in 1988 appreciated by 244% as of July 2013, while the overall CPI inflation rate was 97%. If the home had been sold at the recent bottom of the market, the difference would have narrowed to 165% appreciation vs. 95% inflation. Purchase and sell timing always matters and if one has to sell at the bottom of the market, it affects the return on any investment. As the chart illustrates, home-price appreciation usually outpaces inflation by a significant margin over the longer term: this is a good thing for homeowners and doesn’t include other benefits such as living in the property and the capital gains exclusion on the sale of a principal residence.

This analysis applies well to homes purchased with all cash and no financing. Leverage alters the picture substantially.

Leverage (Financing), Inflation and Home Equity Growth

If one leverages one’s home purchase by taking out a loan, then the growth in one’s home equity dramatically outpaces inflation over the longer term. For the sake of simplicity, in the example above, we’ll assume that home price appreciation and inflation both run at 3% per year, and that the buyer put down 20% in cash plus closing costs, and financed the remaining 80% with a 30-year fixed rate loan. In this scenario, each year that the inflation/ home appreciation rate is 3%, one’s home equity asset grows by about 15%, plus the principal repayment on the outstanding loan (which is a major component – like a forced savings account – in the growth of equity over time). Indeed, the higher the inflation rate, the greater the equity growth. If home price appreciation outpaces inflation as well – as it has over the past 25 years – that accelerates the increase in home equity further. Moreover, the financing cost is currently subsidized by the mortgage interest tax deduction, if that applies to your financial situation.

This is why, using reasonable leverage, real estate is typically considered a good long-term investment – short-term can be much riskier – as well as an excellent hedge against inflation. Of course, if leverage is abused as it was in the years of subprime lending, underwriting standards decline, predatory lending and home-refinancing frenzy (i.e. “using one’s home as a piggy bank”), other risks arise.

In earlier times, when people didn’t move around as much, one bought one’s home, paid it off over the years and when retirement came, had a home owned free and clear – a huge financial asset to be used as appropriate.

Ongoing Homeownership Costs vs. Rental Costs over Time


In this chart, the increase in the annual cost of homeownership with a fixed-rate loan is compared with the increase in rent at a 3% inflation rate, and the increase in rent of a home subject to San Francisco rent control, where annual rent increases are limited to 60% of CPI. As seen, if one locks in a fixed mortgage interest rate, the increase in ownership cost is limited to the increase in property tax costs (limited under Prop 13) and maintenance expenses, while the entire rental cost may be subject to annual raises. Over the longer term, one’s ownership costs become more and more attractive when compared to rental housing costs subject to inflation. If one owned the home for the full 30-year loan period, the monthly mortgage payment itself would disappear.

We have generated two sample rent vs. buy scenarios for San Francisco here:

2-BR Apartment Rental vs. Condo Purchase and 3-BR House Rental vs. Purchase

And you can perform your own rent vs. buy scenario calculations here, using your own financial circumstances, assumptions and projections: Rent vs. Buy Calculator

Important caveats: Trying to compare buying a home to other financial investments on an apples-to-apples basis is impossible, because there are so many other variables at play: the use and enjoyment of the home, how the cost of homeownership compares to renting, physical condition decline over time (without further investment), risks and returns on other types of investments, home tax deductions, the capital gains exclusion on profit from a principal residence sale ($250k for single owner/ $500k for couple), market timing and other factors. All the analyses above are simply sample scenarios, looking at homeownership from a number of angles using a variety of assumptions. It is unknown whether they will apply to future trends.

As said in the first line of this report, first and foremost, any home purchased needs to work as a home: it fulfills your housing needs at an affordable monthly cost. If that’s where you start, with a fixed rate loan, and you don’t refinance out growing home equity, and you don’t have to sell during a market downturn (which, admittedly, isn’t always possible to avoid), then you should come out all right and more often, very well.

These analyses were performed in good faith, but may contain errors, are not warranted and should not be exclusively relied upon. Tax law and other factors referred to are subject to change. All information provided herein should be carefully reviewed according to your own circumstances, plans and economic projections with a qualified financial adviser and loan agent.

San Francisco Housing Market Not Stopping…How’s That For A Gift From Santa!?

In this season of giving and being thankful, I’d have to say that San Francisco Bay Area residents should be pretty thankful that our market is nowhere near that of the national average. If you’re a seller you can be thanking your lucky stars that buyers are out there in droves, and if you’re a buyer you need not pinch yourself, because yes, interest rates are indeed averaging UNDER 4%, and that is certainly something to rejoice.

The San Francisco Association of Realtors Market Focus Report begins now:

Although these fall months are not typically known for high real estate activity, this year has proven otherwise, with strong pockets of movement occurring throughout the city, keeping the market active during these shorter days. Families have been rushing to purchase and settle into their new homes to prepare for the holiday season and upcoming year.

Single-Family Homes

As the number of homes for sale fell throughout the city by 27.3 percent compared to November 2010, the number of homes under contract this past month rose by 21.1 percent, while the number of homes sold rose by a substantial 22.3 percent. For properties that were priced below $700,000, the months of supply inventory dropped by 67.8 percent to 1.3 months. For properties priced between $700,000 and $1.2 million, the months of supply inventory fell by 12.1 percent to 2.8 months. Readings between one and four months typically indicate a seller’s market, where sellers have more negotiating power over home buyers.

One part of the city which continues to experience healthy sales activity is the central district that provides ample shelter from San Francisco’s famous fog and is one of the city’s sunnier regions. Since November 2010, the number of homes sold has risen considerably by 60 percent to a total of 40 properties. From the colorful neighborhoods of Haight Asbury and the Castro, to the more contemporary and family-friendly Noe Valley, to the posh and upscale Clarendon Heights, this part of the city offers a diverse array of housing opportunities for just about any home buyer.

Another area of the city which saw heightened sales activity is the southern part of the city that stretches from San Francisco City College to beyond Candlestick Park. Compared to this time last year, the number of homes under contract in this district has risen by a whopping 80 percent, while the number of homes sold has increased by 58.3 percent to a total of 57 properties. Some of the neighborhoods in the area, such as the Excelsior and Mission Terrace, offer a suburban feel, easy access to public transportation, and some of the best prices in the city, which makes them great locations for first-time home buyers.

Condominium Sales

Although the number of condominiums for sale fell throughout the city by 37.2 percent compared to November 2010, the number of condominiums under contract rose by 17.7 percent and the number of condominiums sold increased by 23.1 percent. For condominiums that were priced between $500,000 and $900,000, the months of supply inventory contracted by 61.4 percent to a reading of 2.2 months. For luxury condominiums priced above $900,000, the months of supply inventory decreased, by 49.8 percent to 2.6 months.

One part of the city which experienced a robust increase in condominium sales activity is the central-eastern part of town, whose landscape continues to evolve from its former warehouse and factory occupied streets. Since November of last year, the number of condominiums sold has jumped by 56.4 percent, from 39 units to a total of 61. The central-eastern district includes such neighborhoods as up-and-coming South Beach, home to AT&T Park and some of the most stylish condominiums in the city, as well as SOMA (South of Market) and Yerba Buena, which has seen an infusion of moderately priced condominiums in recent years.

Outlook

The Conference Board reports that consumer confidence surged in November to its highest level since July, a sign that Americans may be more willing to spend. The Conference Board said that its consumer confidence index climbed by 15 points in November to 56 points, the highest it has been since a reading of 59.2 this past summer. Although still well below a reading of 90, which indicates an economy on solid footing, the confidence numbers are encouraging.

According to the State Employment Development Department, the statewide and local job outlook continues to improve as California’s unemployment rate dropped for the second straight month in October to 11.7 percent. Bay Area counties were all below the State average, including San Francisco, which dropped to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent the prior month.

As the cost of renting in the city continues to rise, and with the average rent currently at $2,572, more and more people should be considering owning a home. There are a variety of rent vs. buy calculators available online and anyone of them can be used to help with a decision as to whether to rent or buy.

As local tech companies like Zynga and Yelp prepare for initial public offerings, more and more of their employees are looking towards owning a home in San Francisco. Reuters reports that recent competitive bidding in some neighborhoods has pushed home prices up more than 15 percent from last year in some areas such as Noe Valley, SOMA and Potrero Hill.

With the improving economy and surge in pending sales, 2012 is likely to see a stronger San Francisco real estate market than what buyers and sellers have been accustomed to since 2008.

-San Francisco Association of Realtors Market Focus Report

Reader Reports: We Finally Were Able To Refinance! What A Nightmare! And Some Advice…

From a reader:

Dear theFrontSteps,

After TWO YEARS of intensive search and questioning and hunting ….we closed yesterday on our refinancing! We got a $600,000 loan at 4.5%. (no point, no refinancing costs, except for appraisal and recording fees).

By the way, the appraisal came back at $1,200,000, which made us laugh a good time. Having open walls and contractor tools in the house does help take the price down!!! Note: I followed the “uglyhouse” blog advice on everything else, and all the pics (gov requires all bathrooms, kitchen and living room pictures) came out 100% clean and staged.

Some thoughts:

No bank, nobody wanted to hear from us, still because we have only one income.

I contacted several brokers, including one who was contacted/recommended by our private banking. Brokers just don’t make it. The process throug brokers would drive anybody crazy. We recontacted our original loan issuer (the employee at wells fargo) and she refused to refi us.

We finally got our break when the WF branch at NoeValley opened a full time position in Mortgage consulting. That new guy was eager to add files on his desk and made it easy to refi without trouble. They made the decision to accept to refi based on nothing but our history of our current mortgage with them, and from there, it was just paperwork.

They needed 2 years of tax docs (the release is for 3 years). It’s not them, it’s a federal requirement. However, because WF does everything in house, our file was traced from one desk to another, and there was very little risk of leak /abusive use of information. The Noe Valley guy was very nice and helped us feel comfortable with their privacy practices.
Because it’s WF who has extensive in house info on our accounts, they did not bother us too much about the stuff in our tax doc that we consider both confidential and not relevant for the loan (namely the foreign real estate, but also the adoption stuff, etc). They were super cool and requested only a proof of insurance (checking the existence of the foreign property).

It was still a very painful process of administrative work and I would recommend that you help your readers CLEAN their finances before (as long as possible) they consider applying for a mortgage. Things like NOT changing bank, NOT closing or opening or transferring bank accounts, investing in a (real) accountant to file one tax return to make sure there is a pristine year (thus less questions from the bank and less discrepancies) etc.

There are mortgages to get, but only if you want to fight for each one.

It was worth it. Thanks again for your extensive help and support over the years.

Thanks for the update, congratulations, and good luck!

Here We Go Again With The Lending

Intercepted from inter-office emails:

Great News,
We are now offering Fannie’s new HomePath loan program! Let your clients know these improved loan terms to generate new business. Essentially, the program has the clients using Fannie loans to buy foreclosed properties owned by Fannie, therefore Fannie gives improved loan terms to the buyer.
PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS:
-97% FINANCING WITH NO MORTGAGE INSURANCE ( That’s a lower monthly payment and lower closing costs)
-90% FINANCING ON INVESTMENT PROPERTIES
-NO APPRAISAL REQUIRED SAVING YOUR CLIENT TIME AND MONEY (Value is selling price determined by listing bank)
-CONDO’S AND 2-4 UNITS OK
-TODAY’S HOMEPATH 30 YR RATES AT 5.0%, 5 YR ARM’S AT ONLY 3.875% !!
TO SEE A ELIGIBLE PROPERTIES IN YOUR AREA SIMPLY GO TO WWW.HOMEPATH.COM

Email or call me with client loan scenario’s that can benefit from this awesome program.

Successfully [not Sincerely],

[Loan Guy]

It seems we’ve heard this before?

FHA Checklist For Spot Loan Approvals

We get a lot of questions about FHA loans these days, particularly if we know what buildings will qualify for FHA loans in San Francisco. There is a simple answer to that question, “No, we don’t know.” But other people do, and those people are loan experts…mortgage bankers/brokers… and luckily they feed us information to feed to you.

CHECK LIST FOR SPOT LOAN APPROVALS
_______ 1. The legal documents of the homeowners association do not contain a right of first refusal or restrictive covenant.
_______ 2. The unit is part of a condominium regime that provides for common and undivided ownership of common areas by unit owners.
_______ 3. The project, including the common elements, and those of any Master Association, are complete, and the project is not subject to additional phasing or annexation.
______ 4. (a) There are no special assessments pending.
______ (b) No legal action is pending against the condominium association, or its officers or directors.
______ 5. The common areas have been under the control of the homeowners association for at least one year.
______ 6. At least 90 percent of the total units in the project have been sold. Verified by _________________________.
______ 7. At least 51 percent of the total units in the project are owner-occupied. Verified by ______________________.
______ 8. There are no adverse environmental factors affecting the project as a whole or individual units .
______ 9. No single entity owns more than 10 percent of the total units in the project. Verified by ______________________.
______ 10. The units in the project are owned in fee simple or the units are held under a leasehold acceptable to FHA. Leasehold in file.
______ 11. The owners association has adequate common area insurance coverage. General liability, replacement coverage, etc. reflects the character, amenities and risks of the
particular development. Flood and other insurances carried, when applicable.
______ 12. General maintenance level of common elements is acceptable and there is no deferred maintenance, based on the comments by the Appraiser and/or the pictures.
______ 13. The owners association has a reserve plan and a reserve fund, separate from the operating account, that is adequate to prevent deferred maintenance. The amount of the fund is $_________ as of __________.
_______14. (a) For projects consisting of over 30 units, no more than 10 percent of the total units are encumbered by FHA insured mortgages. Verified by ___________________.
_______ (b) For projects consisting of 30 units or less, no more than 20 percent of the total units are encumbered by FHA insured mortgages. Verified by _______________.

Simple as that…

-FHA Checklist for Spot Loan Approvals-pdf

Ask Us: Refinancing And Appraisals, When The Banks Aren’t Helpful Turn To The Blogs!

Where readers ask, and we (the community) try to answer:

I appreciate all the general information I get from this terrific blog. This is my first question about my own situation.
I’ve been negotiating with the major bank (WellsFargo) that holds my first ($498K) and second ($14K) for a refinance from a 5.5% ARM to 4.75% 30 FRM [Fixed Rate Mortgage]. We paid 10% down and our second -a 5 year ARM is on schedule to be paid off before it adjusts in 12 months.
Our appraisal came back at less than the $625K required to refinance without PMI. Our bank just said “If you want this to go through, you’ll have to bring $28,000 to close.”
Is anyone finding any flexibility for strong credit rated, clear payment history etc? Or is the only way to get a break to stop paying and plead poverty? That would seem self defeating and yet, I’m not finding my bank to be helpful at all.
Thank you for any comments by anyone knowledgeable about this.

Yours truly is not a mortgage expert, and will defer to those that are, as I always do.

So How Much Does A Buyer REALLY Need To Put Down

As our regular readers know, we get every type of question under the sun, most of which we post directly to the site and let the community answer. Sometimes answers aren’t so cut and dry and there are certainly differing opinions. One very common question these days is “How much money do I need to put down” to buy a house. The long and short of it is to plan on 20%, but there are exceptions and we asked a mortgage expert, and generally the rules go like this:

3.5% to 30% –depends on loan amount.

Jumbo loans (greater than $625,000) require 30% down

Loans up to $625,000 require 20% down and smaller than $417,000 are min 3.5% (FHA) down.

Basic guidelines indeed, but something to keep in mind when looking for your home. Remember, these are LOAN amounts, not purchase prices, and any day that $625k limit will be raised to the new $729,750 amount. You can also get FHA loans up to $729,750 and put as little down as 3.5% (we’re told); however, for most condo developments, you are required to put at least 10% down on FHA loans. It’s all really confusing, and if you have more questions, give us a shout and we’ll put you in touch with a mortgage expert. (thefrontsteps@gmail.com)

Ask Us: Remaining TIC Fractional Lenders

Where the readers ask and we (the community) try to answer:

Hi, just come across your site, very informative.

I’m trying to find TIC Fractional Lenders for a 3 unit + 1 unwarranted [unit] building in SF. We purchased it last October, have completed our renovations, 2 units will be owner occupied. We’re planning to go to Andy Sirkin to draw up a TIC agreement, and refinance hopefully with cash out. We now have a group loan @ 6.75%, no pre-pay penalty.

I heard Bank of Marin is out of the TIC market. How about Sterling and Circle, any other lenders available? Appreciate any info and recommendation. Thanks!

Best,
M

Thanks for your email and question. At this time we only know of Sterling Bank, and Ron Whitney at Zephyr real estate says that a “7×7 Group” also does Fractional TIC loans. Maybe the readers can provide further insight. Regardless, good luck and thanks for reading theFrontSteps.