Personal Finance Tag

As a bit of a contrarian, whenever things start to look too good, I begin to question the future. And given the strength of the market since the housing meltdown reversed, now is a prudent time to begin closely watching home value appreciation for any signs of a bubble.

I’m not saying I believe a correction in home values is imminent in the near term. It will happen at some point, but no one can say when with any certainty. But any time you see unsustainable growth in the housing market, you are witnessing a bubble, and as I’ve heard it said, “Whatever can’t continue must end.” I would rather consider the prospects of a housing bubble forming within the next two to four years than ignore the potential impact entirely. But I’ll let you gauge the risk yourself.

As part of the last housing crisis, indicators of our downfall began in 2005. However, consumers continued to purchase homes at a rapid pace until 2007—and even into 2008—before it was abundantly clear that we had a big problem. Had people known what to look for in 2005, many could have avoided a disaster.

I monitor five key points relative to the ongoing strength of the housing market:

  1. The median home price in relation to consumer confidence.
    • In 2006, consumer confidence hit an all-time high, and we’re at a similar point right now. Historically, when consumers feel confident, housing prices increase. However, as the recent trend in consumer confidence has not led to a relative increase in home values, we can anticipate either a drop in consumer confidence or an increase in housing prices.
  2. The number of people purchasing homes with cash.
    • When the market is hot, more people pay cash for their homes. We’ve recently seen a drop in the number of cash buyers, indicating a potential slowing in the housing market.
  3. The housing affordability index.
    • With both mortgage interest rates and home values on the rise, the housing affordability index has taken a sharp dive to a level unseen since 2009. Homes have become less affordable.
  4. The percentage of homes that increase in value month over month.
    • Although residential housing values have increased, there are many areas where prices are flat or even declining. The peak of a housing cycle is generally reached once the percentage of homes rising in value ceases to increase. The peak in our current cycle was reached in February 2017, and although this indicator could turn positive once more, it is reflective of the situation in 2005–2006.
  5. The percentage of household income that goes toward housing expenses.
    • Growth is no longer sustainable once the average percentage of household income spent on mortgage or rent payments exceeds 25%. Currently, in 20% of the major housing markets, payments average more than 25%. This is the highest percentage we have seen in a long time.

I’m not predicting a housing crash. I believe now is still a great time to buy a home, especially if you plan to live in it for a while. The relative price difference of owning versus renting overwhelmingly supports buying a home. Markets will always go through cycles. My intention is to educate and point out some of the indicators of a bubble. Maybe my thoughts will help deter buyers whose sole objective is to own a home for its appreciation value; at some point, this kind of short-term investment will no longer be an attractive option. However, the long-term reasons to buy remain firmly in place, especially with the average 4.5% growth rate on real estate. When you do the math, owning a home is a no-brainer.

With home prices moving a great deal higher in recent years, some are worried that we are now on the verge of another housing bubble. Although this could be true, it certainly doesn’t appear likely in the near term. In fact, housing prices are projected to continue to grow over the coming years. However, many millennials are using this fear as rationale to continue to live with their parents or rent.

Real estate used as a primary residence has proven over time to be a wise investment, regardless of the timing of the purchase. Although some built up significant equity by purchasing when prices were at their lows during the recent housing crisis, even those who bought at the peak of the market in 2007 should once again be in a strong position of equity.

Homeownership is one of the greatest determining factors that contribute to wealth accumulation. In 2015, the average net worth of a homeowner was $195,400, compared to just $5,400 for a renter. Not only is a homeowner able to better weather a financial storm by borrowing against accumulated equity, homeowners are also able to reach a point where they no longer must make a mortgage payment once the home is paid off. Further, with rents rising as rapidly as they have in recent years, a homeowner who purchased their home years ago is likely paying far less than a renter who is leasing a similar priced home. In addition, the homeowner will receive a tax break that isn’t available to those who rent.

Although inching higher, the current home-ownership rate is well below where it should be. We need to see a bigger push for millennial home buyers to help ensure a strong economy in the decades to come. If they fail to buy at a reasonable age, they could be missing out on a significant opportunity.

The Hidden Truth about Interest Rates

I recently made the decision to care less about being liked by people in the mortgage industry and more about transparency surrounding what I believe. For the sake of this article, I’ll focus on how much a mortgage loan truly costs an average consumer at most mortgage companies vs. what it costs at City Creek Mortgage. Further, I’ll dive into where I see the future of this industry as well as the people who work within it.

First, I want to make clear this is not a dig at my competitors. I believe most mortgage lenders are wonderful people who work for great companies. Just because I have fundamental differences in beliefs about how much companies and people in my industry should earn, doesn’t make my competitors wrong.

The $ Behind a Mortgage

Few consumers realize how much money is made in the process of a mortgage. For many well-known local mortgage companies, a $300,000 mortgage loan generates $12,000 of revenue. What consumers should understand is that this “standard” cost of originating a loan is substantially higher than the actual cost of doing so. The result is needlessly higher interest rates and closing costs for the consumer. Although “it’s just the way things are done,” I believe once people understand what is happening, this practice will come to an end.

In total transparency, a $300,000 mortgage loan closed at City Creek Mortgage will generate up to $6,000 in revenue on average. Although still a healthy income, it is significantly below what most companies make on the same loan. By choosing to make less money on each loan, we save our borrowers in both interest rate and closing costs compared to many of our competitors. Plain and simple, that’s the truth.

As I consider the future of the mortgage industry, I see what many in the industry don’t want to face. Some may disagree with my assessment. I see a time in the coming years where a computer will be able to replace most of the work done by mortgage loan originators. I will explain my thoughts below.

The Impact of Technology

Technology is making the mortgage process significantly easier, faster & more affordable. We are already at the stage where technology can automatically retrieve taxes, bank statements or pay stubs. Since this is most of the supporting documentation required for a loan, the effort required by the consumer and loan originator is decreasing. Further, many loans no longer require a physical appraisal. Once again, expediting the loan process. When combined with digital signing and instant loan approval, it’s not difficult for one to perceive a day when a mortgage loan originator is only needed on more complicated loans. It could even be that a human is needed on only 25% of all loans closed.

A Mortgage Loan Originator’s Income

In truth, the individual mortgage loan originator is usually able to set their own compensation levels. I know many that get paid 2% of each loan they close. This is in addition to what their respective company makes on each loan. For this to work, mortgage companies roll that super high commission into the interest rate they charge borrowers.

So for a $300,000 loan, not only does the company make money, but the loan officer gets $6,000 in commission. For that same $300,000 loan at City Creek Mortgage, $6,000 is the total revenue. No additional charges, or rolling commission into the interest rate like other companies. We use $6,000 to pay 30 staff members, and all our overhead. That’s why (in other companies) you can often get a lower rate by walking through an office and asking individual mortgage loan originators what their level of compensation is. Once you find the lowest plan, you can choose that mortgage loan originator and be offered lower rates and fees. Or you could do it…

The Right Way

You may be wondering how it is possible for City Creek Mortgage to make half of what our competition make on each loan. It is simple. We have a volume-based model. We have to do more loans, because we make less on each loan. We provide our loan officers with the stability of a salary and since they don’t do any marketing themselves, they can do substantially more loans per month than the typical loan originator.

I believe most mortgage loan originators who work for companies eventually will be paid a salary. An individual loan originator will no longer be able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year at the expense of the consumer for closing a handful of loans each month. The current system, where borrowers are paying a luxury tax each month for 30 years for overcompensated loan officers is flawed. Further, the real estate agents who claim to want the best for their clients are often the ones feeding the business to these highly compensated mortgage loan originators. It’s just wrong. Consumers shouldn’t be footing the bill for extravagant lifestyles of over-compensated mortgage loan originators. Trust me, it will change.

And that, my friends, is my explanation as to why our rates at City Creek Mortgage are so much lower than our competitors.

 

WB

Warren Buffett’s famous quote “Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful,” seems to be applicable to today’s stock market environment. With the US stock market recently setting new all-time highs, confidence in the market has reached a peak not seen since 2005. This strong sentiment may be reaching a point of “irrational exuberance.”

History shows that a contrarian outcome is often the result of an extraordinarily high level of faith that the market will continue to improve. A look back on previous market corrections shows that confidence generally peaks just prior to the downturn. Given the current political, economic and global uncertainty, it seems that circumstances may be ripe for a correction later in 2017.

Any attempt to foresee the direction of a market should be taken with a grain of salt. There are strong arguments to suggest the stock market will continue its climb higher well past 2018. The level of confidence however, is a concern.