WASHINGTON, January 15, 2009
The drop in mortgage loan limits for conventional financing at the end of 2008 is hurting home sales and trade-up activity in higher price ranges across the country, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The latest existing-home sales data shows transactions under $400,000 are 3 percent below a year ago. However, sales of homes priced at $750,000 or more have declined a whopping 47 percent.
Outside of FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgages that do not have government backing are still experiencing a credit crunch. Buyers who need jumbo mortgages must pay interest rates that are nearly 2 percentage points higher than conventional financing; as a result, the high-end market is not moving.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said restoring higher mortgage loan limits is critical to this part of the market. “Buyers in higher price ranges are at a severe disadvantage because they have to pay higher interest rates,” he said. “Lower loan limits are having a pronounced impact on trade-up activity at the upper end of the market, which depends more on large downpayments to keep mortgage amounts below the maximums for conventional financing.”
While homes above $750,000 are considered luxurious in many areas, they are modestly sized homes in the midprice ranges of many high-cost markets. “However, the lower mortgage limits for conventional loans mean upper middle-class home buyers in much of the country, including many areas in the Midwest and South, also have to pay higher interest rates,” Yun said. “As a result, we are seeing a universal stalling of sales in higher price ranges across the country.”
To illustrate in dollar terms, if mortgage limits are permanently raised to $729,750, the maximum limit that expired at the end of December, the mortgage payment on such a loan would drop by $942 per month by lowering interest rates 2 percentage points. Over the life of a 30-year loan, the homeowner would save $338,000.
NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said all consumers should have access to today’s historically low mortgage interest rates. “It’s only fair that all hard-working, tax-paying, successful people who want to purchase a home have equal access to low interest rates regardless of where they live or where they want to buy,” he said.
“Every segment of the housing market needs a turnaround to spark an overall housing recovery, which will help the economy to begin to recover,” McMillan said.
Source: National Assocition of Realtors