Reverse Mortgage Pitches Draw Consumer Group's Ire
Whenever the words “reverse mortgage” are uttered, any Long Neck TV viewer immediately makes the connection with one of several celebrity spokesmen who blanket the airwaves with commercials touting the concept. If you listen carefully, those reverse mortgage ads do actually describe the product with legal accuracy. If you have the standard degree of sales resistence most of us have developed after years of exposure to Madison Avenue pitches, you probably guess that instead of relying solely upon the celebrity spokesman’s trustworthiness, you’d better investigate further before running out and applying. Most people do.
So it was surprising when the government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found it necessary to issue a special advisory on the subject. Potential Long Neck reverse mortgage applicants—that is, Long Neck homeowners who meet the minimum age requirement of 62 ½—were warned “not to be deceived” by the “late night TV ads that seem too good to be true.” Without quibbling with the CFPB about when those commercials appear (you can see them almost any time after about 3 p.m.), it is easy to see how they might create broadly mistaken impressions on at least two counts. And it’s too bad, because although a reverse mortgage can be a useful instrument, it really can have nightmarish consequences for someone who doesn’t fully understand the concept and its ramifications.
The warnings were the result of the consumer watchdog organization’s focus group study that showed many viewers coming away with misimpressions following screenings of the ads. Many did not understand that a reverse mortgage is a loan. Others got the impression that a reverse mortgage is a government benefit—and worse, some thought it guaranteed that consumers could stay in their homes for the rest of their lives.
The fact is, these loans are simply a specialized way seniors can tap into their home’s equity: the value that has built up over the years. It’s true that they are designed so that the homeowners do not have to repay the loan until he or she passes away, sells or moves out—but it’s no guarantee that other factors (like taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and maintenance expenses) might not still cause a default should the borrower run out of money.
There are other fine print details that are not mentioned in most of the ads…and they’re every bit as important as the terms of any loan. Among those that are barely touched upon are the fact that there are costs and interest provisions attached to reverse mortgages—and the CFPB finds them to be relatively expensive.
- Written by Russell Stucki
Fed Funds News Cheers Locals, Depresses Talking Heads
The way the media treated last week’s federal funds rate announcement by the Federal Reserve Board was a convincing demonstration of how much importance is placed on that singular piece of the financial puzzle. That rate may not be directly tied to Long Neck mortgage interest rates, but since it determines lenders’ borrowing costs, its effect is considerable.
For many years now, Long Neck mortgage interest rates have been comfortably nestled near the bottom of their historical range. Many Long Neck homeowners have enjoyed the resulting low monthly payments on their mortgages. Long Neck home sellers have likewise benefitted from home loan interest rates that make their properties more affordable than would otherwise be the case.
Real estate repercussions are a major part of the reason that the Fed’s announcement, which came midday last Thursday, had the national media holding its collective electronic breath. With ten minutes to go, one cable network talking head could add little illumination. “Wall Street will be watching the announcement very closely,” was her understatement. Channel flipping with five minutes to go, viewers found the streaming banner at the bottom of one network trumpeting BREAKING NEWS…BREAKING NEWS… before the fact. On CNBC, “the most highly anticipated announcement in years” was awaited by four commentators who had the unhappy challenge of predicting the decision mere seconds before the fact. Above the ever-moving streams of real-time data (oil was down, the stock markets up) panelists chattered about China (“it’s big and mysterious”), inflation targets (“missed again”), and optimism (“a rate hike won’t hurt the economy, it will help”). Only if the Fed “saw something down the road,” it was agreed, would they not raise rates. Then, just 5 seconds to go…then-
The Fed left rates unchanged.
Citing concerns over global this and financial that, the Fed said they were going to be monitoring them. The economy expanded at a moderate pace, and housing improved moderately, they said. But since global conditions might cause trouble...
The media’s excitement level flat-lined within minutes. “The markets are not panicking,” said a gentleman in a snappy suit. He looked irritated. “I blew it,” said another, who moments before had thrown in with the majority predicting a rate rise. “They cited uncertainty,” he frowned; then blurted, “The Fed is the biggest source of uncertainty!”
The stock markets didn’t react at all at first. Later, they closed mixed.
The next day, mortgage interest rates crept downward.
What seemed to be an excitement bust for the media was good news for many of the viewers. When the Fed funds rate continually hovers close to zero, there’s ample reason to suspect that Long Neck mortgage interest rates might stay put for a while. TheStreet website later reported that they expected rates to rise a bit before year’s end. Given the recent record of expert predictions, it might be safer to stand behind one with a better chance of success: the next Fed announcement, I predict, will be the most anticipated announcement in years.
- Written by Russell Stucki
How Today Stacks Up for Would-be Long Neck First Time Homebuyers
Historically low mortgage interest rates have been a lifeline for many Long Neck first time homebuyers in recent years, keeping home ownership within reach for many who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to make the leap. For them, and for all the other than first time area homebuyers, the fact that home values have continued to rise has been an added boon.
But, as just about every mortgage industry expert will tell you, the gig is almost up for those rock bottom rates. Yet the question for many first time homebuyers remains: is it time to buy or not?
It’s a good time to take a hard look a few of the known facts—
According to web giant Zillow, as of Q1 2015, potential home buyers should expect to spend about 15% of their income on a mortgage for an average home in the U.S. When you compare this with the historical averages, it makes today’s rates temptingly low: the typical percentage has been closer to 21%. In terms of dollars spent monthly, that’s a big (and terrific) difference!
At the same time, the historical average has a typical renter shelling out 24% of income. Today, that’s closer to 30%...making first time homeownership that much more inviting.
Taken together, Zillow’s new calculations definitely appear to make finding a home to buy the more affordable option. On the other hand, it’s also true that a number of factors work against first time homebuyers—in Long Neck and nationwide. College debt, for one, is far more of an obstacle than it used to be. And the other side of those all-time high monthly rents in many places are making it that much harder for would-be first time homebuyers to save for a down payment. But with the widespread phenomenon of growth in rents outpacing growth in home values, the rental affordability problem isn’t likely to improve any time soon. With mortgage rates likely to be on the increase as early as this fall, the long term outlook may not grow rosier as time passes. The implied takeaway: strike now while the iron is hot!
- Written by Russell Stucki
Debate Rages over Effectiveness of Long Neck Open Houses
For years, there was little debate about the need for open houses in Long Neck : almost without exception, unless the seller of a Long Neck home objected, at least one or two open houses were an accepted part of how most real estate agents went about marketing the property.
Today, along with all the other changes that define modern real estate marketing, the potency of open houses is up for serious debate. Virtual online tours are increasingly popular among Long Neck real estate sellers and buyers—the ‘use’ statistics that tell agents how often the different parts of their sites are viewed prove that. Since open houses were formerly held in order to display a property to members of the general public—and since virtual tours do the same thing—it’s truly a question that deserves a hard look.
Here are three of the main reasons I see frequently cited for why open houses are still useful—and some both pros and cons for each:
1. Open Houses Can Bring Higher Prices
Pro: Open houses are most important for high demand properties when there is low inventory for similar homes. It can be possible to stage open houses in combination with delayed offer reviews—in this scenario, the seller hosts several open houses leading up to a final date when he or she will review competing offers.
Con: The same is accomplished with well-produced virtual tours. Interested viewers then contact the agent, who is able to qualify the prospects who will be invited for an actual on-site showing. Competing offers are just as likely to develop.
2. Open Houses Are More Convenient for Sellers
Pro: People want to sell their Long Neck homes as quickly as possible if for no other reason than they must keep their houses spotless and organized while on the market. Open houses are one way for sellers to have to prepare fewer times for their home to be displayed to buyers.
Con: Virtual tours accomplish the same thing for a far broader cross-section of the public. Professional photographers use their photo session to record the property at its spotless best, which is then on display 24/7/365—not just for one or two days!
3. Open Houses are More Convenient for Prospective Buyers
Pro: Interested parties can pop in for an on-site tour without the hassle of contacting the agent and scheduling an appointment—basically, of making even a minor level of commitment in advance of knowing much about the property. Open houses thus broaden the property’s exposure.
Con: Serious home shoppers are going online en masse; the effort expended on an open house is better spent preparing for interested, qualified buyers.
- Written by Russell Stucki