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Home prices in the Untied States continue to soar, and the remarkable run of real estate as the “must have” investment continues. The median price of a new home, which only recently crossed the $200,000 barrier, is now $215,000. The high prices of homes haven’t deterred buyers; sales in June reached a record number of units. There is some concern in Washington about the explosive real estate market, and Federal banking regulators issued lending guidelines in May that urged lenders to be more cautious when lending money for home purchases. How have lenders responded to these guidelines?
They have made it even easier to borrow money.
It seems rather odd for lenders to make it easier to lend money after having been warned that they’ve been lending money too easily, but that’s exactly what has happened. Some banks have lowered the minimum credit score necessary to obtain a home loan or increased the percentage of income that may be spent on a mortgage. Others have introduced loans that require no proof of income. Still others have begun offering a wider variety of no-interest loans and dangerous Option ARM loans, which can actually raise the principal of a loan after a buyer makes a payment. Why are lenders easing loan restrictions after being warned that they are too lenient?
The primary reason is competition. The market is red hot right now, and due to the fluctuations in the stock market in the last five years, everyone wants to invest money in real estate. With so many people flocking to borrow money, lenders want to do as much business as possible. They also want to do more business than their competitors. By lowering qualifying standards, lenders can lend more money. It’s that simple.
There are several problems with this scenario. Some percentage of buyers will always default on their mortgages. When the standards for obtaining a loan are lowered, that percentage will certainly increase. While foreclosures currently remain low, they combination of lowered standards and rising prices will certainly contribute to an increase. An expected increase in interest rates would make the situation worse.
The effects of these changes in lending can be felt by most anyone. If you are considering buying a home with a mortgage, be careful. Don’t automatically assume that you will be comfortable making a $3000 house payment just because the lender tells you that you “qualify” for it. You must still leave within your own means, and the mortgage broker isn’t really concerned about that. He or she just wants to sell the loan, and doing so may not be in your best interest.
If you are going to take out a home loan, create a budget and determine how much you can comfortably pay each month. That figure will undoubtedly be less than what your broker is willing to offer. Stick with your own figure, and don’t let the fever of the marketplace sway you. After all, you are the one who has to make the payment each month.
©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing.
Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to personal bankruptcy, debt consolidation and credit counseling, and HomeEquityHelp.com, a site devoted to information regarding mortgages and home equity loans.
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