Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Mortgage Meltdown, and What it Means for Homebuyers

We live in chaotic times, and now with foreclosures on the rise, this chaos has extended itself to the mortgage market. The impact of this has caused mortgage investors to lose confidence, which has reduced the amount of cash available for new loans. A recent news piece by the Associated Press reported that, “The shocks to the industry are siphoning lenders and cash away from the market, which reduces competition and restricts people’s access to home loans.”

With the loss of available cash for new loans, lenders have tightened their lending requirements, and some lenders have been forced to go out of business—filing for bankruptcy. According to an article by RISMEDIA entitled Mortgage Mayhem, the reason for the fiasco in the mortgage market, “…is largely based on the fact that market conditions in both the secondary mortgage market and the national real estate market have deteriorated to the point that many mortgage businesses are no longer viable or as profitable as before.”

So what does this mean for homebuyers?

It means that it is now more difficult for buyers with less-than-perfect credit to qualify for a mortgage. The Associated Press had quoted George Hanzimanolis, president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers , “lenders have raised the minimum credit score that qualifies for financing. Most lenders now require bigger down payments, he said, and are eliminating exotic loans or making them more difficult to qualify for.” He mentioned, “The silver lining is that people with good credit who can document their income have the same access to home loans as they did a year ago.”

First time homebuyers will have a tougher time buying their first home, but hope is not completely lost. The condition in the mortgage market now requires first-timers to do a little more planning, and more saving for the future. Buying a home is not only one of the biggest financial investments of a person’s life, but it is also one of the biggest responsibilities. It is worth taking the extra time to plan and wait—making sure that all financial considerations are in order, saving enough money for a larger down payment—with some savings left over—and making sure that credit scores are brought up to justify a lower interest rate.

If a buyer's income is good, but for whatever reason, they cannot qualify for a mortgage, then there is the option of lease-to-own. This is a good way for buyers to be in a home, while improving their situation to qualify for a mortgage in the future. Considering the current condition in the mortgage market, more sellers might be willing to entertain such an arrangement if buyers can demonstrate that they have a steady job situation, and they can support the monthly lease payments.

Buyers will benefit in the long-run from the stability that results with making smart financial decisions. Timing is everything, and this principle certainly applies to buying real estate.

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