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If you’re behind on your mortgage and looking at a possible foreclosure, you can find some help at an open house tomorrow at Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush.

HUD-certified foreclosure intervention counselors will be on hand to explain your options, help with paperwork, speak to your lender and otherwise assist.

You’ll need to bring your most recent mortgage statement and a month’s worth of consecutive pay stubs. It helps if you can also bring recent bank and credit card statements, tax returns, utility and water bills, your title deed, and any legal paperwork you’ve received regarding your delinquency. (more…)

Mortgage Master, a large regional lender, opened shop in Williamsburg in December. The Massachusetts-based firm is among the largest, privately-owned mortgage lenders in the country with over $5 billion in loans a year and offices throughout the northeast and in California. Apparently the skyrocketing market in Williamsburg has caught its eye. The 1,600 square-foot office — a bit off the beaten path at 697 Lorimer between the BQE and McCarren Park — is staffed by Brooklyn locals. The landlord installed reclaimed timber, an old winch and other odds and ends found in a building he owns in Greenpoint. More pics after the jump. (more…)

The headline pretty much says it all: The percentage of mortgage holders in New York City and environs who have negative equity ticked up slightly from 20.1 in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 21.3 in the first quarter of 2012. As you can see from the map (from Zillow via The Real Deal), however, much of the pain was felt in New Jersey and Queens. Brooklyn, especially Brownstone Brooklyn, looks largely unscathed. And compared to the rest of the country, where almost one-third of homeowners are still underwater, New York isn’t doing too badly.

One-fifth of NYC-area Borrowers Are Underwater [The Real Deal]

From The Wall Street Journal:

Real-estate website Zillow Inc. (Z) said Tuesday its real-time rate on 30-year fixed mortgages fell to a new record low in the last week. Zillow said the 30-year fixed mortgage rate on its Mortgage Marketplace is at 3.66%, down from 3.72% a week earlier. The rate is the lowest since Mortgage Marketplace launched in April 2008, Zillow said. The company said the 30-year fixed mortgage rate peaked at 3.7% on Friday and steadily declined through the weekend, dropping to its current rate Tuesday morning. Erin Lantz, director of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, said despite strong employment figures on Friday, the rate has remained historically low and has been hovering between 3.65% and 3.7% for the past week. “Although European headlines may drive more volatility in the coming week, we expect rates will stay near this range,” Lantz said.

“The mortgage loan delinquency rate in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens in the final quarter of 2010 was up from year-earlier levels, according to a recent quarterly analysis. The uptick could well lead to a rise in foreclosure activity in coming months. Brooklyn recorded the greatest increase in the percentage of borrowers 60 or more days past due with their mortgage payments with a 1.05 percentage point increase last year, according to data compiled by TransUnion, a Chicago-based credit and information management company….Despite last year’s rise in mortgage delinquencies in New York, foreclosures dropped drastically in the city as a whole, as well as in each borough. According to PropertyShark.com, new foreclosures were down 59% last month from a year ago citywide. But experts warn that the decline may not accurately represent the market conditions because banks implemented a temporary freeze in filings to examine their foreclosure processes.” -Crains

bushwick-abandoned-100710.jpgThis isn’t the first mortgage fraud bust in Brooklyn and it won’t be the last, but it’s good to see some weight sentences getting thrown around. This case, reported by The Post today, involves all the usual suspects: a ring of lawyers, real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, title insurers and straw buyers got together to buy cheap properties in Brooklyn and Queens and then quickly flip them at inflated prices. The amount of fraud surpassed $10 million, with Lehman Brothers and a handful of lenders getting stuck with the bill. The ring leader, a 44-year-old lawyer named Anthony Onua, could face up to 30 years in prison.
Photo by i_follow

mortgage-refinance-0310.jpgThe New York Times had a good primer this weekend on when it makes sense to send in money above and beyond your required monthly payment to reduce the principal amount of your mortgage. Back in corporate finance class in business school (if we recall correctly—it’s been twelve years!), you’re taught that a company should pay down its debt if can’t find any alternative use for its capital that it believes can return as much as it’s paying in interest on its debt. The same thing applies to an individual, and with rates as low as they are and the significant tax breaks factored in, the hurdle is pretty low right now. “Back when rates ran at 7 or 8 percent, making extra payments offered what amounted to a guaranteed return on your money,” says The Times. “When you’re ridding yourself of debt that costs you much less, however, it’s easier to imagine a future when you could more easily earn a higher return by investing those potential extra mortgage payments someplace else.” Of course, there are some other common-sense considerations to factor in, like the flexibility and safety that having some cash sitting in the bank can bring or the priority of paying off higher-interest debt like credit cards before attacking the balance of your mortgage.
When Not to Pay Down a Mortgage [Brownstoner]

mansion-photo-1109.jpg“Buyers of homes in high-priced markets have some reason to cheer: the federal government recently extended through 2010 the maximum dollar amount for ‘conforming loans.’ This will probably mean better options for borrowers who might otherwise have had to take out ‘jumbo’ mortgages…Alan Rosenbaum, the chief executive of the Guardhill Financial Corporation in Manhattan, said the extension would have important implications for those in New York City and many suburbs that are designated as high-cost areas. The extension of the higher conforming loan limit and the home buyer tax credit ‘will help our market maintain its momentum,’ he said. — NY Times

Appraisals, for all their importance in getting a mortgage and buying a home, seem to be rather nebulous. This past weekend, The New York Times ran an article pointing out several gray areas in the art of appraising. First of all, a change in the Home Valuation Code of Conduct that took effect back in May gave banks exclusive power over the appraisal process. The plus side, and intent of the change, is that brokers, builders, and buyers cannot influence the appraisal as much; the down side, according to some appraisers in New York, is that banks are using national appraisal firms that assign appraisers who charge lower fees—i.e., less experienced appraisers who are likely unfamiliar with the local market, something which is essential in New York City’s market of microscopic subclimates. It is common, of course, in a down market for appraisals to come in low, but the combination of inexperienced appraisers and fewer data points due to lower volume might result in inaccurately low valuations. Buffalo News made a similar report about the appraisal industry upstate, and CNN Money reported that the housing industry met with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last week to protest the current Code of Conduct, and the attorney general’s office agreed to consider the matter further. The primary sources for these articles are brokers and local appraisers. We’d like to hear from other players in the game, as well. Any bankers, buyers, or national appraisers out there who want to throw their hat into the ring?
New York Appraisals Get Shortchanged [NY Times]
Tougher Appraisals Make Home Sales Harder [Buffalo News]
Housing Industry to Cuomo: Let’s Work Together [CNN Money]
Photo by Richard Wanderman

mortgage_080909.jpgCommon wisdom for home-buyers has been to front at least 20 percent as a down payment, but this practice may no longer be rewarded by the financial markets, reports The New York Times. Because of rules implemented by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008, “for most people, it turns out, smaller down payments result in lower interest rates,” according to the Times. For example, The Times found that a buyer with a 720 credit score buying a $400,000 home would typically be able to obtain a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage of 4.875 percent if he were putting down $80,000. Perversely, he could have gotten the same rate by only putting down 5 percent as well. Why’s that? In the case of the 5 percent down payment he would have been required to pay mortgage insurance of around a hundred bucks a month. Even stranger, if he’d been even more conservative and opted to put down 25 percent, his interest rate would have shot up to 5.375 percent. Apparently, lenders like the idea of a borrower having a cushion in his checking account better than having a smaller loan principal. Strange days indeed.
A Down Payment Anomaly [NY Times]
Photo by Corey Thomas

mortgage_081309.jpgBankrate.com has created a simple, handy quiz to determine whether you qualify for the federal government’s new Home Affordable Refinance program, which helps home-owners struggling with their mortgages. Bankrate.com also adds that you might qualify even if your first mortgage slightly exceeds the market value of the property. Go to the quiz via the link above, or click here.

mortgage_081109.jpgIn addition to the federal tax cut for first-time home-buyers, New York State is sweetening the deal by offering its own mortgage aid, reported the New York Times this weekend. The State of New York Mortgage Agency’s Mortgage Credit Certificate program will grant federal income-tax credits to first-time buyers equal to 20 percent of the annual mortgage interest. To apply in New York City, the Times explains, “the combined annual income for households with three or more people cannot exceed $107,520, and the house price cannot exceed $637,640.” Participating banks such as M&T Bank and Wells Fargo will begin accepting applications in early September, and the program will run through the end of the year. And unlike the federal aid program, the Mortgage Credit Certificate will renew its tax credit every year.
More Help for New Yorkers [NY Times]
Photo by David Lot