In our Vero Beach Real Estate News for November 2013:
No Mortgage Limit Changes Before Spring
Housing Inventory Fell In September
IRS Delays Start of Tax Filing Season (Again)
No Mortgage Limit Changes Before Spring
Mortgage lenders will get at least six months' notice before the government reduces the limit on the size of loans that taxpayer-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can back.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has already said it was considering lowering the cap to wean the housing finance system off its dependence on the government, said any change would be phased in to avoid economic disruptions.
The housing finance industry had expected officials to lower the limits on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed loans on January 1, 2014. While it will get more time to prepare for any changes, a decision on whether to lower the limits, and by how much, would still be made later this month (November).
Currently, Fannie and Freddie cannot back loans of more than $417,000 in most markets, although the cap ranges as high as $625,500 in some pricier areas – and up to $721,050 in Hawaii.
Lowering the caps, which were raised in 2008 to help keep the mortgage market liquid during the financial crisis, could make it harder for Americans to obtain home loans and drive up mortgage costs, unless the private market steps in to fill the void.
The two firms do not directly make loans. They purchase mortgages from lenders, which they either keep on their books or bundle into securities that they offer to investors with a guarantee. Those investors pay Fannie and Freddie a "guarantee fee" when they buy the securities.
Some in the industry and lawmakers have tried to challenge the FHFA's legal authority to reduce the loan limits. In addition, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives have called on the agency to drop its plans to change them altogether. We'll keep you posted on any changes, whatever they may be, right here at this website. Stay tuned!
Housing Inventory Fell in September
The number of homes listed for sale dropped slightly in September but a growing number of housing markets are witnessing higher levels of for-sale inventory compared with one year ago.
Nationwide, there were 1.94 million homes listed for sale in September, down by 1.7% from August but still the third highest level this year, according to a report from Realtor.com. Listings were down by 2% from one year earlier, but nine of the top 30 metro areas saw year-over-year increases in the number of homes for sale.
The housing market has seen brisk sales through the third quarter of this year, but there are signs that severe inventory crunches from earlier this year are slowly beginning to ease as rising prices give more sellers the incentive to test the market.
Home listings tend to slow in September as the school year begins, and the drop in listings last month was lower than normal.
The National Association of Realtors estimated recently that housing inventory stood at 2.21 million units in September, which was unchanged from August but up by 1.8% from last year's levels. That marks the first time in more than 2 and 1/2 years that the Realtors group has reported year-over-year gains in unsold home inventories.
IRS Delays Start of Tax-Filing Season (Again)
The IRS announced recently that it will delay the start of tax-filing season by up to two weeks because of the government shutdown. However, taxpayers will still be responsible for turning in their 2013 returns by April 15. (Did you really expect a delay there too?)
This will be the second year that the IRS has delayed accepting tax returns due to legislative matters. Just after Jan. 1 this year, Congress approved a fiscal deal that adjusted tax rates and caused the IRS to push the start of tax-filing season from January 22nd to January 30th. Some taxpayers even had to wait until February or March to file.
The IRS says it will begin accepting tax returns between January 28th and February 4th. The agency plans to announce in December a final date for when the filing season will officially kick off. We'll update you here when that final date is announced.