September 4th, 2008 1:22 PM by Lehel Szucs
· Two of the most commonly reported barriers to homebuying are high down payment requirements and high home prices. The majority of Americans feel that it has become more difficult to obtain mortgages and that the application process is more difficult than a year ago. Consumers also believe that the terms they are offered are too demanding given the weak economic conditions. Many of today’s loans require home buyers to put down at least 5 percent, but most market experts recommend a minimum of 10 percent. Areas with high foreclosure rates may require 20 percent down and markets that have been severely impacted by foreclosures such as Reno, Nev. may require a 25 percent down payment. However, home buyers have reason to be optimistic. If signed by President Bush as expected, the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act would allow states to issue an additional $11 billion to first-time buyers and homeowners with subprime mortgages.
· Although interest rates remain low by historic standards, concerns over the sustainability of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have contributed to an increase in interest rates. Investors who purchase these loans are wary and are demanding higher interest rates to offset the added perceived risk. The average 30-year, fixed-rate loan was up nearly a point two weeks ago, to 6.37 percent, compared with the year’s low of 5.48 percent, which was set in January.
· Credit ratings are playing an ever-increasing role among consumers seeking to purchase a new home or refinance an existing one. By improving their credit scores, Americans can save billions of dollars annually on interest payments. As of June 1, buyers with credit scores of less than 620 that put down less than 30 percent must pay a fee of 2.75 percent of their mortgage principal. Consumers with higher credit ratings were previously rewarded by not having these up-front fees imposed. Now, those with a credit score between 680 and 720 may be required to pay a 0.5 percent fee. Consumers can boost their credit scores and receive more favorable rates by keeping credit card utilization rates below 50 percent and avoiding exceeding the maximum limit on credit cards.