By now we feel the need to explain the term “underwater.” Eight years ago, virtually everyone knew its meaning, since many were experiencing it first-hand. Underwater: owing more money on a mortgage than the house is worth.
It was one of the more widespread results of the 2008 housing crash and the ensuing plunge in home prices. By the third quarter of 2009 more than a quarter of homeowners with a mortgage had lost all equity in their home. Homeowners in this position were far more likely than their neighbors to be delinquent on their mortgages and to fall into foreclosure. They were also unable to sell their homes unless they brought cash to the closing table or convinced their bank to allow a short sale, i.e. take less than was owed on the mortgage. Before government programs such as the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) began, they were unable to refinance into the prevailing record low-interest rates.
In the latest of its quarterly reports on negative equity, CoreLogic says 1 million homes gained positive equity over the 12 months ending in March. While 3.1 million homes remained underwater–still a big number–that is only 6.1% of mortgaged homes; an annual decline of 24%. Homeowner equity nationwide rose by $750 billion on an annual basis.
Underwater: thankfully now a fading memory for most.
Fed Raises Interest Rates
As anticipated, the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised the fed funds rate for the third time in six months on Wednesday. The quarter-point hike brings the benchmark rate to 1-1.25%. One more increase is expected this year and perhaps three to four in 2018. We shall see.
Black Knight Financial Services says the first quarter of 2017 was a bad one for refinancing; originations fell 45% compared to the last quarter of 2016. However, the recent easing of rates (they remained below 4% this week), may change the outlook.
With interest rates below 4%, the number of homeowners that could benefit from refinancing has risen to the highest level so far this year, to 4.4 million, 1.6 million more than in mid-March.
The company calculates that those in the “financeable pool” could save an average of $260 each month on their mortgage payment. Roughly 2.5 million of them would save between $100 and $300 and nearly 700,000 could chalk up savings of $400 a month or more.
Are you in that pool? Call or email to find out.