The normally sleepy period between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays has been unusually busy in the mortgage and real estate world. This week brought at least one major change in the industry, and with rates still low, the market remains hot.
Here’s what you need to know from the week that was.
1. The mortgage refinance fee has begun
Arguably the biggest news this week is that the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s mortgage refinance fee finally was officially implemented on Dec. 1. The agency announced the 0.5 percent charge on most refinances over the summer, but its introduction was delayed after public outcry. Now, that extra fee is being charged on almost all conventional mortgage refinances valued at $125,000 or more. But don’t fret too much: low rates mean there are still good deals to be found if you’re looking to redo your mortgage and cut your monthly payment.
2. Look beyond the rate
If Meghan Trainor teamed up with Bankrate’s friend Les Parker to write a mortgage-related parody of one of her songs, she’d have to do better than “It’s all about that rate, ’bout that rate.” In an interview Shant Banosian, one of the top-grossing loan officers in the U.S. this year, Bankrate learned that too many borrowers focus too much on their mortgage rates to the exclusion of other loan-related costs. That means many mortgage holders wind up with an incomplete picture of what they’ll owe. “It’s really about comparing rates and closing costs in totality, not just one or the other,” Banosian said.
3. Hot housing markets and rent vs. own
Bankrate explored the latest trends in housing this week, including which states have the hottest housing markets and which cities are better for renting versus buying. Spoiler alert: the hottest state for housing in the third quarter was Utah, driven primarily by Californians seeking cheaper real estate. Meanwhile, generally speaking, you’re better off renting in the South or buying in the North.
4. What is redlining?
In addition to all the news, Bankrate took a look backwards this week, to explore how the legacy of racist housing and lending policies past continue to affect American real estate. Redlining made it much harder for Black people to purchase homes, and it created the foundations for wealth inequality that persists today.
5. Your mortgage questions, answered
We love hearing from our readers, and we wanted to give you the opportunity to have your questions answered directly by our staff experts. Here’s some of what perhaps you were wondering about mortgage refinancing. Feel free to write us any time, and your question could be answered in our next such roundup. Email your question BankrateMailbag@Bankrate.com.