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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee: Lenders react to FHA mortgage insurance changes

A look at stories across HousingWire's weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues:

Not only will FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums be increasing 10 to 15 basis points, but they will also become permanent, creating room for alarm among lenders who fear lower-income homeowners will be squeezed out of the market.

U.S. Federal Housing Commissioner Carol Galante announced the changes in late January.

Many are arguing that, for a loan designed to help lower-income families and first time homebuyers, this increase in premiums is unjust, according to a recent press release.

"If Commissioner Galante follows through with other items, such as permanent mortgage insurance, low income households will qualify for less," said Chris Apodaca, a California mortgage banker.

And reducing market share is partially a goal of the increases, according to the FHA. It's role, post-crisis, is huge. Accoring to an article in The Wall Street Journal, economists at Moody's Analytics estimate that home prices, already down around 30% from their peak, would have fallen by an additional 25% without this government backing.

Therefore, it will be difficult to claw-back from the role the government plays in today's housing finance.

"FHA was never meant to be as mainstream as it is today," Apodaca added.

Seattle’s inventory of homes for sale has been dwindling for the past year. However, it seems that sellers are still in hibernation, despite the lack of competition from other sellers. This lack of inventory continues to leave buyers frustrated.

Last month, a 1.39-month supply of housing was reported in Seattle's King County. Analysts suggest a 5-to-6 month supply indicates a "balanced market."

"60% of homes being listed in the major job centers of the greater Seattle area are selling in one month or less," reported Seattle Pi.

While some sellers may be waiting for the market to come back, the Seattle Pi article points out, "the market is back."

Economists are saying that housing will become a positive contributor to the U.S. economy in 2013, instead of weighing against economic growth.

According to an article in The Columbian, this statement is backed up by most measurements of the housing sector, including home starts, sales and rising home prices. 

"The current forecast is for 5 million existing homes and 500,000 new single-family (housing starts). That's a pretty healthy growth in existing sales of about 8.5 percent," said Danielle Hale, director of housing statistics for the National Association of Realtors.

And mortgage companies are banking that housing stays strong. The nation's lenders are ramping up operations right now. An article in USA Today, said these firms are beefing up their staffs to accommodate the continued expansion in lending, sales and construction that many economists forecast this year. 

"It should be a very good year for housing," the article quotes James Chessen, chief economist of the American Bankers Association. "With house prices rising, it means that there will be more (homeowners) refinancing at low rates because the equity in their house is improving. It also means more people are interested in selling their house to buy larger ones."

For all you listing agents out there, there are certain keywords popping up on the real estate market right now that will help a home sell in no time. (Well, that and low rates.)

Real estate agent and marketing expert, Daniel Beer, says "open-floor plan" and "downstairs masters" are popular features everywhere. 

Additionally, the "walkability" of a neighborhood is rising in stature. Green terms such as "solar" and "energy efficient" are gaining appeal as well. 

Finally, Beer says "Low HOA fee" continues to be a hot term in listings over the U.S.

See the full list of real estate keywords here.

Bank closing activity remains slow since mid-January. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last reported a bank closing on Jan. 18.

mhopkins@housingwire.com

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