It was already tough enough for many buyers when home prices started rising by double digits in the wake of the pandemic, but the surge in mortgage rates following a series of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve has knocked a growing number of buyers to be relegated to the sidelines.
However, the state and federal governments have launched initiatives that could help some buyers get back in the game.
For example, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and MassHousing, two quasi-public state agencies, have just rolled out a $65 million down payment and mortgage assistance program to help low- and moderate-income buyers looking to land their first home.
The new MassDREAMS initiative will provide first-time buyers in Massachusetts cities and towns hard-hit by the pandemic with up to $50,000 in “homebuying support.” The supports, in turn, include not just help with a down payment, but also “prepaid mortgage insurance, prepaid closing costs, and interest rate reductions,” the agencies said in a press release.
The money, which is being distributed as grants with no repayment requirements, will come from federal pandemic relief dollars.
“The MassDREAMS program is a major step forward for the Commonwealth,” said MHP Executive Director Clark Ziegler, in a press release. “It’s providing relief to the people and neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID where historic barriers to homeownership have fueled racial inequity and intergenerational disparities.”
To be eligible, prospective home buyers must live in one of 29 communities “disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” a list that includes Framingham, Boston, and Randolph, state officials say.
For buyers whose earnings are below the area median income, the maximum grant tops out at $50,000. For those earning roughly the median, and up to 35 percent, that number drops to $35,000.
To qualify for the grants, home buyers must get approved for a mortgage with one of the lenders that work with either MassHousing or MHP, while also undergoing “eligibility prescreening.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to nix upfront fees for some borrowers and mortgage products.
The boost is targeted at home buyers earning at or below area median income in most parts of the United States, as well as 120 percent of area median income in high-cost areas (hello Greater Boston), the agency noted in a press release.
The move is expected to trigger savings for one in five of all borrowers, according to the FHFA.
Surging interest rates have certainly taken their toll on mortgage volume and home prices and sales, as can be seen in the monthly real estate data reports issued by The Warren Group.
So, it will certainly be interesting to monitor mortgage activity going forward to see if these new state and federal initiatives result in a rebound in loan volume – and which lenders are able to capitalize on these new programs.
And if you are looking to do a deeper dive, The Warren Group offers a range of data solutions to track and analyze the mortgage market.