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Mortgage and real estate news this week: Hot housing markets and forbearance extension

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As the nation settles in for what promises to be a long and disease-ridden winter, the mortgage and real estate industries continue to offer some good news for those seeking it out. Here are the trends we’re keeping tabs on this week, and what they might mean for you.

1. Housing competition increasing away from the coasts

The homebuying season never really went into its normal winter chill this year, and markets around the country continue to see heightened demand. With more companies than ever offering the flexibility of remote work, some people are fleeing expensive coastal cities for cheaper inland markets. Because they’re bringing their high salaries with them, many of the newcomers are paying top dollar for homes, and pricing out locals in some cases.

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2. Forbearance protections extended

President Biden promised during his campaign that he would provide housing relief for many families affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and in his first week, he’s taking executive action to follow through. He directed many federal agencies to extend forbearance protections for their mortgage borrowers, and the Federal Housing Administration was the latest to update its policies. That gives borrowers with FHA loans more time to request the protection, or to extend their forbearance if it’s coming to an end.

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3. Down payments can be less than you think

Many prospective homebuyers believe they won’t be able to buy property unless they’ve saved up enough to put 20 percent of the purchase price down. While it’s true that there are some benefits to such a larger down payment — such as paying less in interest overall, or being able to avoid  mortgage insurance — 20 percent is by no means required for most loans. Many lenders will extend financing with as little as 3 percent down, and some government programs, like VA mortgages, are available with no down payment at all.

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4. Why now is still a good time to refinance

Mortgage interest rates are still very low, but they won’t stay this way forever. If you haven’t refinanced recently, don’t let the opportunity for savings pass you by. Get ready to crunch some numbers, shop around with a few lenders and improve your finances by lowering your mortgage payment.

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5. The cheapest month for mortgages

It’s now. According to new research from Haus, January is the best time to get a mortgage if you’re looking to save on interest. Rates aren’t likely to skyrocket in the coming weeks, but statistically, you’re better off getting a loan during this month than any other.

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Written by
Zach Wichter
Mortgage reporter
Zach Wichter is a former mortgage reporter at Bankrate. He previously worked on the Business desk at The New York Times where he won a Loeb Award for breaking news, and covered aviation for The Points Guy.