With adjustable-rate mortgages available for a full percentage point less than a fixed-rate mortgage, and a few more rate hikes in the pipeline from the Federal Reserve, it’s no surprise that prospective homeowners are rushing to lock in rates.
But there’s more to report than merely a story on the state of mortgage rates in your area. There may not be enough homes in your area to meet demand—that’s the larger picture for business reporters to capture in looking at the state of their local markets. There’s also an opportunity to give new homeowners a primer on the pros and cons of mortgages. And finally, you can round out the picture in your area by letting “seriously underwater” homeowners who got into trouble with their mortgages during the financial crisis know about an unexpected source of refinancing help. As you dig into the data, consider developing one—or all three—of these stories.
A mixed housing picture
Across the board, housing prices are rising, but sales are moderate, which adds up to a puzzling picture. Fewer homes are available, especially in the mid-price range, because some homeowners are seriously underwater on their mortgages and can’t afford to move. An interactive resource from ATTOM Data Solutions is available to help you pinpoint activity in your area.
Mortgage pros and cons
Choosing an ARM simply because it’s cheaper may turn out to be a shock, if a new homeowner stretches too close to the maximum payment and rates increase—exactly the type of the behavior that got many homeowners in trouble during the financial crisis. An ARM may not be the homeowner’s best choice, depending on the size of their loan or where they live. Interview national experts and local lenders on the pros and cons of fixed-rate mortgages or ARMs. You can also add rate charts localized to your area.
Refinancing help for underwater homeowners
Some of your readers may not realize that the Home Affordable Refinance Program may offer qualified homeowners who are seriously underwater on their mortgages an unexpected source of refinancing help. HARP, which was created in 2009 after the financial crisis, has been extended again, to October 2017. Money is available to help 250,000 homeowners, according to the program.
• ATTOM Data Solutions, a national property database of 150 million U.S. residential and commercial properties, offers a state-by-state interactive map on “underwater” and “seriously underwater” properties.
• ATTOM also publishes RealtyTrac.com, a property search and research portal for foreclosures and other off-market properties, and HomeFacts.com, a neighborhood research portal providing hyperlocal risks and amenities information.
• The National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest association of realtors, is a source for locating an expert in your area knowledgeable about the state of the local housing market.
• Black Knight Data Analytics is a new source of comprehensive property, Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and mortgage performance data.
• Bankrate.com and HSH.com update loan rates daily and offer mortgage calculators, in addition to mortgage news and analysis. Greg McBride at Bankrate and Keith Gumbinger at HSH can provide expert commentary on mortgage news and trends.
• The Mortgage Bankers Association has a weekly survey on mortgage application activity. The association can also connect you with a member in your local area.
• Harp.gov, the website of the Home Affordable Refinancing Program, offers information on eligibility criteria and the refinancing process.