Thursday, December 20, 2007

FlyRig - Manhattan Rentals

FlyRig is a new website that lets you search rental listings in Manhattan only via a really nice Google Map mashup interface. The beautiful integration is something other real estate web developers should come by to admire. Not only does it display the listings from a query search as expected, but it allows users to search for other related things (say: dry-cleaners or gym) and plot their location in relation to the listed apartment. With this alone it is a much better alternative to Craig's List, and allows users to comment and rate listings - a feature remains to be seen. Cruising the site, I saw very little actual ratings or comments.

But there's more good stuff inside. For agents it has a super-easy interface to add listings for free. Moreover it molds all the aggregated data into useful nuggets for agents, including agent ranking lists, average rents by neighborhood, broken out over time, and a New York real estate specific news aggregation page.

Nice work. I wish I had it so good when I first went apartment hunting in Manhattan!

Friday, December 14, 2007

FHA Moderinization Act Passes Senate

The passing by an overwhelming majority today by the Senate (93-1) is a bit of very good news for both homeowners and the mortgage industry.

Here is how things would change for the FHA programs based on the way the bill is currently written:

1. It raises loan limits to 100% of median home price by area, up to the conforming loan limit, currently $417,000.

2. It lowers and streamlines the downpayment requirement to 1.5% from where it currently is at 3%

3. Simplifies procedures for lending on condominiums. Prior rules made FHA lending on Condos very difficult.

4. Reverse Mortgage Enhancements: Expands the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Program maximum loan to a national level of $417,000 the current conforming loan limit, and lowers fees from 2% to 1.5%

Other Provisions

-Enhanced Counseling programs, including post purchase counseling for homeowners having trouble making payments
-Alternative Credit Scoring Pilot Program - establishes a pilot to test scoring of persons with little documented credit, making use of alternative credit references, such as rental payments and utility bills.

Monday, December 03, 2007

State Mortgage Agencies to Help Refinance Subprime Loans

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced today a plan to enable State Housing Agencies to use tax-free bonds to help refinance at-risk homeowners. Similar to the FHASecure
initiative that HUD is offering, it represents another effort at the government level to innovate solutions to help homeowners unable to refinance high-interest rate ARMs. This programs, like the FHASecure program, will be offered via participating lenders who will underwrite according to the state agency guidelines.

In separate news, Eric Rosengren the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston emphasized in a speech today, that dropping housing prices, not subprime loans, are the chief cause of the foreclosure crisis we are now experiencing. In his speech, he referenced a study done by the Boston Fed and the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, further noted that the average "teaser rate" for subprime loans was a relatively high 8.5%, and the core problem is that borrowers can no longer qualify to refinance these loans into a fixed rate, as planned - because their equity has evaporated.