Is Inflation Inevitable – At Some Point!

When I was in high school, I had a savings account with $20k, I am a saver. I went to deposit more money and the teller said I should put this in a CD. That CD was earning over 20% in interest. I thought that was awesome, but in the 80s, inflation was out of control. When I went to buy a house in the 90s, the interest rate on our loan was 8.5%. I didn’t think much about it as I didn’t know any different. Below, I’ve shared a portion of a blog from Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending with his thoughts on inflation:

He currently thinks much less on inflation and considers deflation/recession a possibility in the near term (over the net 6 to 24 months) like he discussed in a recent blogs, including this one, his Car Wash Indicator and Scary LinkedIn Indicator. My personal favorite is the Car Wash Indicator.

But after the next one to two years, all bets are off, as prices are likely to surge everywhere for several reasons.

1. Commodity Prices Will Surge:  The world is facing massive energy and commodity shortages due to a lack of investment over the last several decades, and it will take decades more to replenish supplies and/or to find alternatives and thus we will see massive resource shortages. 
2.  Labor Shortages. This is something author Peter Zeihan addresses often, as the largest generation of workers in American history is now retiring en masse, and that will foster a labor shortage that will drive up labor costs and prices overall.
 3. Monetizing Debt.  America’s overall debt load is 3.7x GDP right now, and that there is no way we can pay it off. Our Federal debt alone ($30 trillion) exceeds GDP ($25 trillion), and when you couple that with all our state and local debts and, worse, our unfunded pension, social security, and Medicare liabilities (over $100 trillion) – we are screwed. The only way we will pay off all that debt is by effectively printing money or conjuring it out of thin air somehow – and that will result in massive inflation.

Jay goes on to mention that one of the best inflation hedges is real estate, which he likes best because it generates income while appreciating, has a history of good performance against inflation, and more. That’s where my two cents come in!

I believe now or in the near future is a good time to buy. We are in an odd transitioning market. Some homes are selling for about 1% less than asking and may have had a price reduction and homes are sitting on the market longer. Then around the 17-24 day mark, a couple of buyers make an offer. Other homes are selling for more than list. It depends on location, condition and where the listing agent was able to list out the gate. If rates go back down, you will see more buyers in the market, multiple offers and prices increasing. If rates go over 6% and continue going up, then prices will come down, but the higher rate erodes your price point. If you are looking to buy, buy now and if the rates go down you can refi. If rates go up, you will be glad you bought when you did.

Perspective On Interest Rates

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending shared a blog about interest rates recently, which I want to discuss further here. You can see Jay’s blog at JVMLending.com right here. Basically, Jay acknowledges that rates are about 2% higher than they were when they bottomed out after COVID first hit. They are back to 2009 levels now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are “high.”

When you look at the rates over the last 50 years (see below), you see that current rates are still very low compared to many other eras since 1971. By the end of the 1970s, the average rate was over 15% and over 18% by 1981. In fact, throughout the 1980s, rates hovered around 10% while the economy boomed.

Even in the 1990s, when many people reading this blog may have been purchasing a home, rates were around 8% with the occasional dip below 7%. The rates as we know them now only dropped into the 5% range after the 2008 economic collapse. I bought my first home in 1992, we paid 8 % interest and then refinanced about 7 times over the years. Initially it was an interest only loan. It wasn’t until I divorced and bo0ught him out of the house that I financed into a fixed rate.

So, yes, rates are a little higher than our recent “all-time lows,” but they are still MUCH lower than they have been in decades past. Hopefully that helps put it into perspective a little bit. Rates are likely fall in the next year as there is a lot of talk about a recession, so these current higher rates might not last long.

I highly recommend the link below Barry Habib has an amazing track record on predicting the future of the mortgage industry. To learn more about the rates, recessions, and demand, watch the video linked below. Barry Habib, who comments on mortgage and real estate markets on TV regularly, has some interesting information to share:

https://thenationalrealestatepost.com/barry-habib-calls-it-again/

Rates Have Never Been This High!*

*since 2021…

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending recently wrote about this, and I wanted to share a couple graphs he included in the blog to give context to the “rising” interest rates.

As Jay mentions in his blog, there is perspective to be considered when discussing the rising interest rates. They HAVE risen (1/4% – 3/8%) since last summer, but did you know they are actually lower now than they were on April 1st of this year?

Or that they remain lower than they have been for most of the last 10 years? And significantly lower than where they were for most of the last 45 years? As Jay puts it at the end of his blog, today’s rates remain a gift!

Here are those graphs for context (first, mortgage rates over the last 10 years, followed by rates going back to 1971):

So, if you are on the fence about purchasing, rates are still very low and we are only just starting to experience some inflation. You will lose more purchasing power with rates going up (which usually occurs when inflation comes around) than with prices going up.

I have not had any recent issues with appraisals. I just had a buyer increase the offer price by more than $100k over the list price and the appraisal came in. Who knows what the future will hold, but overall it is still a good time to purchase.

[JVM Lending Blog] 4% Rates by June?

The following blog is from my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending. I’ve contributed some of my own insight at the very bottom. Enjoy!

I am always hesitant to predict rate-increases because they so often do not come about. But, because rates have increased over 1/2% over the last few months and because Barry Habib of MBS Highway predicted that increase with amazing accuracy, I listen when Habib predicts additional increases. And that is what he did in his recent commentary and in an interview with economist, David Rosenberg.

BAD NEWS = INFLATION

How Interest Rates Affect Property Value - The Paratto Team

Credit: The Paratto Team

Both Habib and Rosenberg believe inflation numbers will spike up over the next few months. They focus on Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers, and point out that the CPI is a moving average of the last twelve months of inflation reports.

Hence, we won’t see inflation spike until April, May and June when the price increases we have seen in recent months start to get factored into the average. CPI numbers were in fact released today, showing a 1.7% increase over the last 12 months.

Habib and Rosenberg believe, however, that CPI numbers will be 1% to 2% higher by June, and that will no doubt spook the bond markets and push rates significantly higher. This is because no bond investor wants to be stuck with a 1.6% yield if inflation rates are at 3%.

GOOD NEWS = INFLATION IS SHORT-LIVED

Habib and Rosenberg also both believe that the inflation we will see will be short-lived. This is because they both think the price increases we are seeing now are primarily a result of supply chains being broken because of COVID.

They remind that the same vaccines and potential herd immunity that are freeing up spending and potentially spurring inflation are also the same vaccines that are also opening up supply chains.

They think the benefits of opened supply chains will outweigh upward pressures on prices brought on by increased spending, and we will see tamer inflation numbers later in the year. Rosenberg also points out that all of the government borrowing taking place now is also deflationary.

NO MELTDOWN; PRAGMATIC; ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN

30-year mortgage rates hit highest since July, refis cool | Fox Business

Credit: Fox Business

What I most enjoy about old salts like Mr. Rosenberg is how pragmatic and relaxed they are. The blogosphere is filled with “doom and gloomers” who insist “the end is near” because of our government’s unprecedented and massive monetary and fiscal intervention.

Rosenberg, however, believes those fears are overstated, pointing out how the Japanese central bank and government have been far more activist over the last twenty years without suffering any major consequences.

Rosenberg is finally quick to point out that there is still no certainty with any prediction in today’s volatile world, and he is particularly adamant about not trying to time predictions.

CONCLUSION

Rates will very likely continue to rise over the next few months b/c of inflation concerns. They could also fall again, but there is no guarantee.

Kristin’s two cents:

I also listened to a Barry Habib Zoom call in early February. One of the other things he noted is as debt increases, interest rates decline. What stood out is the current U.S. debt is around $28 trillion. If you decreased it by $1 million a day, it would take about 2,700 years to fully pay it off. The current administration is currently looking a more debt with their infrastructure bill. The good news is if rates go back down and you are just getting into a loan, you can always refinance down the road.

One last thought: The Wall Street Journal just reported that there are more real estate agents in the United States than houses on the market, but that will be a blog for another day!

How low can rates go?

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending recently shared a great blog, which I have posted in its entirety below. As usual, I’ve added my two cents to the topic at the end. Hope you enjoy!

One of the most interesting aspects of the COVID-19 crisis is its effect on interest rates. In “normal” times, mortgage rates correlate closely with the 10 Year Treasury Bond. In other words, when the 10 Year moves higher, so do mortgage rates and vice versa.

Also, “the spread,” or the difference between the 10 Year Yield and mortgage rates in normal times averages about 1.5%, meaning the average mortgage rate is usually about 1.5% higher than the 10 Year Yield. Since the COVID-19 crisis started, however, the “normal” correlation and spread have disappeared.

10 Year Treasury Yields have plummeted much farther and faster than mortgage rates. In addition, mortgage rates don’t always move in conjunction with the 10 Year, and the “spread” between the 10 Year and the average 30-year mortgage rate has jumped to over 2.6%!

Mortgage rates remain higher than expected for a few reasons that I have illuminated many times. One reason is that lenders could not handle the onslaught of refi volume if they lowered rates any more. But the important reason has to do with risk. Mortgages are much riskier now because of unemployment, forbearance, and liquidity concerns; higher mortgage rates simply reflect that risk.

HOW LOW WILL RATES GO?

If the market returns to “normal;” if the 10 Year remains as low as it is now (around 0.6%+); and if the “spread” between the 10 Year and mortgage rates drops back to the 1.5% range, we could see 30-year mortgage rates drop another 1%!

Yes, that means 30-year mortgage rates as low as 2%!

SHOULD BORROWERS WAIT TO REFINANCE?

Absolutely not, and this is why.

First and foremost, the above scenario requires a lot of major “ifs.” And in this extremely volatile economy, anything could happen to derail the downward rate spiral, including inflation, new regulations or government actions, less competition in the market, renewed liquidity crises, and/or a faster than expected economic rebound.

Additional reasons to refinance now rather than waiting include: (1) most refinances are “no cost” so borrowers can simply refinance again if rates fall further; (2) borrowers can save hundreds of dollars per month by refinancing now at no cost, so why defer the savings? And (3) refinancing is relatively painless now with all of the new technology in place, so refinancing again should not be a concern.

This has been our mantra for years and it bears repeating – borrowers who wait for pristine market conditions (with respect to both housing prices and interest rates) often get burned. And that is because in this world of extreme volatility, nobody really has a clue what will happen.

Kristin’s take: I have had many conversations with buyers who are wanting to “wait and see,” and many keep asking if prices have come down. Prices have not come down (with the exception of the luxury market) and we are currently seeing multiple offers or properties pending in 5 days, especially in the entry-level market. Of course, it depends on the home: is it updated? Is it priced at fair market value or lower? And so on. I believe the window to negotiate or get a great deal was within the first 6 weeks of our shelter-in-place because there was so much unknown. For those who had a higher level of risk tolerance or just needed to buy a home, I believe hindsight will show they got a deal (comparatively).

Qualifying for a loan after returning to work

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has shared another great blog, which I will share below. I did not include the last section, which is not applicable to my clientele, but you can read the entire thing in the link above. Look for my input at the bottom. As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic!

Many people are wondering how soon laid off and furloughed borrowers will qualify for mortgage financing once they return to work.

Loan Agreement Signature - Free image on Pixabay

Employment Gap Under Six Months

If the layoff or furlough lasts less than six months, lenders will be able to fund most loans as soon as borrowers return to work (for conforming, FHA, and VA loans). Some jumbo lenders, however, may require 30 days of job-seasoning before they will fund.

Employment Gap Over Six Months – Returning to Same Job/Industry

If a layoff lasts more than six months, things get more complicated. If borrowers return to the same job or a similar job in the same industry, they will be able to qualify for conforming (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac) financing 30 days after they return to work, in most cases, with 30 days’ worth of paystubs. FHA and jumbo borrowers may require six months of job-seasoning, however.

New Job/New Industry

If laid off borrowers find new jobs in new industries, they will have to “season” their new jobs for six months in most cases (and up to two years in some cases) before they will qualify for any type of loan. The exception to this rule is for borrowers who recently graduated from college or any type of professional, training, or graduate program that relates to the borrower’s field in some way. Recent grads can usually qualify for financing as soon as 30 days after starting a new job.

Kristin’s Two Cents: Another topic that has come up is forbearance -a creditor’s temporary forgiveness of debt (i.e. to postpone your payment). Many think, “Hey, why not take advantage of not having to pay my mortgage for a few months?” even if they can, because there is no harm. Well, it will impair your credit (most will report it, you will be required to pay it back once the period is over – and with rates dropping, you won’t be able to refinance for one year after you have fully paid back the forbearance. Do you want to miss that opportunity? Click for more information about forbearance.

Fed Rate Cuts Don’t Mean Mortgage Rate Cuts!

NOTE: We will be moving to one post a week (on Wednesday’s) until further notice since we are under lockdown here in Contra Costa County and I can’t go out and explore!

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has an interesting take on the latest interest rate cuts by the Fed. Even since he’s written this, the Fed has made yet another cut (because of the government’s response to coronavirus killing the stock market in addition to the Saudi’s dropping the barrel prices), so I’ll try my best to tie the two together at the bottom and make sense of all this:

We were asked a variance of this question over and over yesterday: “I heard that the Fed cut the rate by 1/2 percent; can I lower my mortgage rate by 1/2 percent?” We would respond by explaining that the “Fed Funds Rate” often does not correlate to mortgage rates for a variety of reasons. I touch on this often because the confusion surfaces every time the Fed cuts rates.

When the Fed makes a rate cut, it is to the short-term “Fed Funds Rate,” which does not always impact long-term mortgage rates in the way that most consumers might expect. I blogged about this as recently as August, but here is a brief summary of why mortgage rates not only don’t always correlate to Fed rate cuts, but often go up after the Fed cuts rates:

The “markets” anticipated the rate cut and already adjusted for it. Traders and investors analyze polls, data, and Fed comments to very effectively anticipate changes and the Fed Funds Rate and the markets often adjust long before the rate cuts take place. As a result, very little happens when the Fed Funds Rate is actually cut (or increased).

Short-term rates don’t always affect long-term rates. The Fed is only reducing the Fed Funds Rate, or the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans. This is a very short-term rate and short-term rates don’t always affect long-term (mortgage) rates.

Many factors influence long-term rates besides the Fed, and below are just a few. These factors include economic data; inflation signals; geopolitical crises; and the demand for mortgage bonds. SO WHAT DID RATES DO AFTER THE FED CUT RATES? Rates were about the same after the rate cut as they were the day before.


One day later – in a shocking and surprise weekend move, the Fed cut the Fed Funds Rate to 0% on Monday. See above as to why it might not move mortgage rates. But, the Fed also committed to $500 billion of treasury bond purchases and $200 billion of mortgage-backed security purchases.

This renewed “Quantitative Easing” did push rates down slightly but that didn’t last, as the market is all over the place yesterday and probably today and extremely volatile.

MORTGAGE RATES BARELY MOVE; CAPACITY ISSUES

Despite the massive Fed intervention, mortgage rates barely moved. The reason is capacity.

There are $11 trillion in outstanding mortgages – give or take. The industry is capable of funding about $2 to $3 trillion per year – at most.

When borrowers with $5 trillion worth of mortgages want to refinance over the course of a few months, the industry simply can’t handle the volume.

And – as a result, rates remain on the higher side and are still over 1/2 a percent higher than where they were 10 days ago. The Feds’ rate cut is actually getting a lot of criticism because it will do so little to stimulate economic activity (travel, major events, supply chain issues) offset by the coronavirus concerns. It also leaves the Fed nowhere to go if things get worse. We are in uncharted waters; welcome to the new normal. At the end of the day when this settles, rates will still be low and we may see a listing and buying spree due to the sheltering in place.

Stay safe and healthy my friends!

No lender fees and lender credits = higher rates; no free lunches

We’re back with another Jay Vorhees classic from his JVM Lending blog! This time, we’re talking about lender fees and credits. Read on to get Jay’s perspective, and then look for my input at the bottom:

We recently had a Texas borrower almost leave us for a competitor that was offering “no lender fees, no appraisal fee, and a small credit for closing costs.” Fortunately, though, the borrower sent us the “Loan Estimate” from the competitor and we were able to see that the competitor was charging a higher rate.

Image result for lender fees

In response, we easily matched the credit (and then some) and the interest rate, without giving up anything, of course, because we make more money when we sell loans with higher rates. This simply illustrates something I blog about often – there are no free lunches.

A lot of lenders use reduced fees or closing-cost credits to attract buyers, but those reduced fees and credits invariably come with higher rates.

Builder Exception

The only exception to this rule has to do with some of the offerings from builder-owned mortgage companies. Because builders want to control the process so badly, because they want to make 100$ sure all buyers are 100% qualified, and because they want to ensure they close on time (to maintain cash flow, bonuses, etc.), they sometimes give away the farm with their financing packages.

There is, however, a builder caveat too, and this is something my appraiser-friends point out often. Builders sometimes also offer very competitive financing solely to entice buyers into paying above-market prices for their properties.

Image result for loan

Knowledge is power and the process can already be overwhelming, but the more you know and trust who you work with, the better off you will be!

3 reasons to make smaller down payments

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together some thoughts on why you should make smaller down payments. I thought this was an interesting idea, so here is his blog reprinted, with my thoughts at the end! Read on:

We recently had a borrower with ample income and about $70,000 of liquid assets try to squeeze into a $600,000 home with 10% down. She wanted us to put as much down as possible to minimize her housing payment. We instead talked her into putting 3.5% down and using FHA financing for the three reasons discussed below.

Image result for down payment
  1. Pay off consumer debt: When buyers have a lot of consumer debt, we always encourage them to make smaller down payments and then use the remaining cash to pay off consumer debt. The monthly savings from paying off consumer debt almost always far exceed the potential savings from having a smaller mortgage. In addition, mortgage interest rates tend to be much lower than consumer debt interest rates and most mortgage interest is tax-deductible, while consumer debt is not.
  2. Save cash for the “unexpected”: Many buyers vastly underestimate the amount of cash they will need for unanticipated expenses once they buy a home, especially if they had been renting. These costs include moving costs, new furniture needs, new appliances, minor home improvements of all types (window treatments, floor coverings, etc.), higher utility bills, and higher yard and home maintenance costs.
  3. Take advantage of low rates: When rates are this low, it is much more affordable to put less down and to borrow more in any case.

These are good thoughts by Jay. However, a buyer is at a disadvantage if multiple offers are made. It is more likely, in that scenario, that you will lose out to someone with more money down and they may remove some or all of their contingencies. Each situation is unique and all options should be discussed so a buyer understands the pros and cons and can make an informed decision!

What constitutes a “bedroom?”

Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending raises an important question in a recent blog: what constitutes a “bedroom” in a real estate context? I’ve always told my clients that if it has a closet, it’s a bedroom – but I learned there’s actually a lot more to it! Read on, from Jay:

Image result for bedroom

My wife Heejin spoke in front of a brokerage recently and an agent approached her afterward to complain about a transaction we closed over three years ago. The agent was still upset because the appraisal came in low. We researched the transaction and found out that the county records and the MLS had the bedroom count wrong.

The agent was adamant that the home was a 3-bedroom house, as per county records, but it was actually only a 2-bedroom home, necessitating the use of more similar and lower-priced 2-bedroom comps. The ostensible “third bedroom” was only 42 square feet – far too small to constitute an actual bedroom.

Superstar appraisal-blogger Ryan Lundquist, of course, addressed this issue in one of his excellent blogs – Four Requirements for a Room to Be a Bedroom. Here are a few simplified takeaways (I recommend reading Ryan’s entire blog for more detail):

Image result for bedroom
  1. Entrance/Exit: A bedroom needs to have a door to the main house and a window to the outside.
  2. Ceiling Height: At least 50% of the ceiling needs to be 7 feet high. Hence, a sloping attic ceiling is okay in most cases.
  3. Size: A bedroom needs to be at least 70 square feet, with no side being less than 7 feet. Hence, a 6 by 12-foot room is not a bedroom.
  4. Closets Not Required (Usually): Many agents and buyers mistakenly believe that a “bedroom” must have a closet, but if often depends on local real estate norms, per Ryan. The last point is my own, and not Ryan’s.

County records and MLS info are sometimes incorrect, too. My above story involving the upset agent is a great example. County records say the house has “three bedrooms,” when it definitely only has two.

This is also another reason why we need skilled human beings to appraise homes. AI/computers will believe county records every time, but that is a topic for another blog.

(Kristin’s Thoughts) Another thing to note: if you don’t pull the permits, the tax records won’t reflect the addition of a bedroom, but an appraiser may use it if it is functional as a bedroom.