Back in March, the federal government cut interest rates in an attempt to stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, many lenders are offering programs that will allow homeowners who have lost income to pause mortgage payments without hurting their credit. There are many ways that these tactics are impacting the current real estate market. Here’s what you need to know.

The coronavirus impact on mortgage rates

Last month, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates and also announced that it would buy more mortgage-backed securities. These were both in an effort to keep the market functioning smoothly. Buying mortgage-backed securities means that lenders will have money for buyers to borrow. Between mid-March and mid-April, fixed mortgage rates fell by almost half a percentage point. For home buyers, this can mean significant savings, especially if you lock-in the interest rate.

The coronavirus impact on refinances

Current homeowners may be even more enticed than buyers by the drop in mortgage rates. Many are deciding if now is a good time to refinance their loans. Keep in mind that even a small reduction of your rate can net you significant savings over time, even when you consider the closing costs. This is especially true if you plan to stay in your home long term. Be aware that this is a busy time for lenders who are processing refinance applications, and as a result, it may take longer to finalize your new loan. And just like when you got your first mortgage, you should shop around so that you get the best possible rates and terms.

The coronavirus and home appraisals

One crucial step in the closing process for a home loan is an appraisal. The lender typically sends a professional appraiser to the property to determine its fair market value. Of course, with strict social distancing guidelines in place around the country, it is difficult to perform an appraisal in the traditional way. For this reason, new rules have been implemented to help keep the process moving forward without putting anyone in unnecessary danger. Some lenders have approved drive-by appraisals, where the appraiser drives by the home to evaluate it. Other lenders have also authorized the use of desktop appraisals where the appraiser uses existing data to determine the value of the home.

Availability of mortgages

Although some mortgage underwriting guidelines have tightened over the past couple of weeks, mortgage programs are still available and we haven’t experienced anything near to tightening we saw in 2008 during the Great Recession. Jumbo loans are still available and mortgage lenders are finding unique ways, like combo loans, to help those luxury home buyers gain access to these historic low rates.

If you are considering buying or selling a home in 2020 and need some help deciding whether this year is the right time for you, let us know. We would be happy to connect you with one of our agents, and our mortgage partners are ready to help you evaluate your options. Feel free to give us a call at 713-869-5700 or fill out the form below and we will match you with an agent.


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