Loan changes give home buyers hope

March 19, 2008 7:11:11 PM PDT
In the past two days, there have been two major breaks for the real estate market.

Both have to do with interest rates and mortgages. This could translate to good news for home buyers and those wanting to re-finance.

"In the 34 years that I've been selling real estate, this is probably the biggest change that I have ever seen," said Pinel realtor Hal Castle.

Home buyers this week will find it easier to get a loan after the sub-prime mortgage crisis caused a credit crunch.

The agency that regulates Freddie Mac and Fannie May has lowered the amount they must hold in reserve. Freddie Mac and Fannie May are government sponsored companies that buy mortgages from lenders.

The move will pump up to $200 billion dollars into the mortgage market, and make it easier for people like Camille Calica to buy a house.

"I feel like it's a great time to buy because the prices are lower, and I do expect when the economy goes up, you'll have a gold mine, and everybody wants to live in the Bay Area," said Oakland home buyer Camille Calica.

The FHA also raised the conforming loan amount from $417,000 TO $729,000 dollars. That means buyers, especially in the Bay Area, can take out a lower interest loan.

A four bedroom, two bath house in Oakland is listed at $547,500 dollars. Buying it last week would require a jumbo loan. With 10 percent down at eight percent interest, the payment would be $3,600 per month.

Today, a conforming FHA loan with three-percent down at 5.625 percent, the paying is $500 dollars less or $3,100 dollars per month.

A Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loan with 10 percent down at 6.875 percent would be $3,237 dollars per month.

Making loans easier to get could have an impact on home prices.

The hope is the additional money going into the mortgage market will help stop the fall in home prices, not only in the Bay Area, but also across the country.

"What these new loan limits have done is provide opportunity to buyers who have been squeezed out by the credit contractions in the past few months," said Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Vice President Arlene Allert.

"I think that this addresses more issues than the small checks we're going to get in the mail in a month or two. I think this is going to make a huge difference in people wanting to get in the market," said Castle.

Real estate agents hope it's the start of a turnaround.