9th December 2017

FHFA Raises Maximum Conforming Loan Limits For 2018


FHFA Raises Maximum Conforming Loan Limits for 2018If you’re looking to buy or refinance a home, I have great news to share with you.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Baseline Loan Limit Will Increase to $453,100 for 2018

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) just recently announced they will raise the maximum conforming loan limits for 2018 to a maximum amount of $453,100 – for reference, the loan limits for 2017 are $424,100. That’s $29,000 more buying power in 2018 without getting into Jumbo Loan territory. In certain high cost areas, the loan limit is even higher.

This means you may be able to:

  • Purchase a higher priced home with more financing options, possibly including lower rates.
  • Refinance an existing, higher-rate “jumbo” loan and possibly drop mortgage insurance premiums, too.
  • Combine a 1st and 2nd mortgage.

If you have questions about this 2018 conforming loan limit change, or if you need a referral to a few trusted and proven lenders who have done millions of dollars worth of loans for my clients, please reach out to me. And if you have friends who may benefit from this news, please pass it along. I’ll be happy to help.

Robert Whitfield – Broker/Owner  Advantage Realtors  678-585-9691

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1st February 2017

Prospect Mortgage, Keller Williams, and ReMax Fined For Illegal Kickbacks


Respa ViolationsThis practice is egregious – and so wrong. Consumers are supposed to be able to rely on their agents to be a trusted and non biased adviser – this just goes to show you cannot select an agent simply because they work for a large well known national franchise brokerage firm.

 I want all our clients and prospects to know Advantage Realtors, a small specialized boutique brokerage in East Cobb, has never sought or accepted a kickback fee for referring any vendor. We have refused all such offers from vendors – mostly inspectors and home warranty companies. Our referrals of vendors is based strictly on the quality of the vendors service – and we refer several never just one. Our vendor relationships have been developed over time and our vendors are proven, trusted, performers that are tops in their industry. Advantage Realtors provides unmatched and personalized services and we expect the vendors we refer to do the same.

We have encountered a similar questionable practice pointed out in the article among some listing brokers here in Atlanta – namely the requirement in the broker comments section of a listing that buyers must have a pre-qualification from a specific lender in order to make an offer – even if they already have a letter from a reputable lender! This is an absurd practice known as “writing in”, and it reeks of an unhealthy under the table lead generation arrangement. We advocate for our clients that they do NOT need to get a “second pre-qualification” in order to submit an offer, and we have been successful so far.

Like every agent or broker who knows what they’re doing and how to run a business, Advantage Realtors requires all buyer clients we represent to be pre-qualified by a lender at a minimum, or better pre-approved for a loan or we don’t represent them. The resulting “lender letter” is sufficient evidence for all parties, sellers, banks, etc that our buyers are qualified to submit an offer in a certain price range and not a waste of anyone’s time. Moreover, having buyers get what is known in the industry as a “pre-qual” can be done with minimal effort and a brief phone conversation. It is just sound business practice to assure a buyer is actually qualified to look at certain priced homes – especially since we don’t just meet buyers at homes and open doors – we exert a significant amount of extra time performing extra due-diligence to better inform and protect our buyers – services like micro market price trend and valuation checks, free building structural, workmanship, and major system evaluations, and even monitoring of new homes under construction and advocating for our clients with regard to contract, inspection defects, and new construction quality issues – services other agents don’t provide and in most cases are not qualified  to provide, and not allowed by their broker to provide.  

Robert Whitfield – Broker/Owner Advantage Realtors


RISMedia January 31, 2017


Prospect Mortgage, LLC, a major mortgage lender, and two real estate brokerages have been ordered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to pay more than $3.5 million in civil penalties and consumer compensation for participating in an “illegal kickback scheme” for mortgage business referrals.


Prospect Mortgage, headquartered in Sherman Oaks, CA., Corvallis, OR. based Keller Williams Mid-Willamette and Ventura, CA.-based RE/MAX Gold Coast all three violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), according to the CFPB, which prohibits real estate agents and brokerages from recommending settlement services, such as title insurance, appraisals, inspections, and loan origination, to consumers in exchange for payment from these service providers.


“Today’s action sends a clear message that it is illegal to make or accept payments for mortgage referrals,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “We will hold both sides of these improper arrangements accountable for breaking the law, which skews the real estate market to the disadvantage of consumers and honest businesses.”


For More Info…

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21st January 2017

How Will Trump Affect Real Estate

How will Trump affect real estate


The full impact remains to be seen, but here’s a start – on day one the Trump administration has already taken action that affects real estate – the permanent suspension of the FHA 1/4 % Mortgage Insurance Premium Reduction announced just last week. This reduction was estimated to save buyers about $500 a year – so while not a deal breaker for most buyers, the mortgage and real estate industry naturally welcomes anything that will help buyers qualify for a loan. The good thing, at least for now – the FHA loan limits for the Atlanta Market recently increased to $358,800 which makes this loan a great option for more buyers – especially those who need (or want) to take advantage of the minimum 3.5% down payment – most other loans require 5% down.

From Mortgage News Network:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a statement that the reduction in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance premium that was announced last week has been suspended indefinitely.

“FHA is committed to ensuring its mortgage insurance programs remains viable and effective in the long term for all parties involved, especially our taxpayers,” the HUD statement said. “As such, more analysis and research are deemed necessary to assess future adjustments while also considering potential market conditions in an ever-changing global economy that could impact our efforts.”

The HUD statement added that “FHA will issue a subsequent Mortgagee Letter at a later date should this policy change.”

This is going to be an interesting year, and I predict more policy changes – hopefully for the best of the consumer and the country.

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13th February 2014

TBD Loan Approvals

Loan Pre ApprovalWhat is a TBD Approval? Why is it the way to go?
TBD (To Be Determined) approvals are for buyers obtaining financing who get their loan file underwritten to the furthest extent possible – without having yet identified a property to purchase. With a TBD, income, assets, credit, etc are examined leaving only the property itself to be determined. Once the purchase contract is created, the remaining needed items to fund the loan are minimal – an appraisal and title report.

Only a Bank, Credit Union or Direct Lender has this capability because they have “in-house” underwriters. The only remaining items for a “Clear-to-Close is a copy of the borrower’s purchase agreement and an appraisal on the property.

Who do they benefit? Everyone Involved.

Real estate agents know they have a solid buyer before going out looking at homes and writing up offers. A deal falling out because of a pay stub or a strange deposit on a bank statement 20 days into escrow is a huge time waste and emotional drain.

Buyers have more confidence with their offers knowing that they ‘check out’ with the underwriter before pulling out the credit card for an appraisal. More importantly – sellers have been known to accept a lower offer from a buyer who has a “Loan Approval Subject Only to Appraisal and Title”, versus a buyer who has only been pre-qualified.

Sellers have less fall out when dealing with a TBD approved buyer. If there is fallout, it would be because of the property that they are selling, not the buyer. Sellers hold TBD approved buyers in esteem somewhere between buyers who only have a ‘standard pre-qual’ and the highly coveted ‘all-cash’ buyer. There are times when sellers will actually accept lower offers from an “approved buyer” because they want or need  a firm sale date, and prefer not to risk letting a buyer who merely has a Pre-Qualification pull their property off market for 15+ days while they seek loan approval.

With a TBD Approval a lot of potential unknowns are eliminated up front, and all parties involved benefit.

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20th September 2013

Fed Will Help The Housing Market Continue It’s Recovery!

Fed Chair Bernanke

The Federal Reserve’s decision to forgo a planned tapering off of bond-buying caught most by surprise yesterday. That included the Dow and the S&P. After the announcement made by Treasury Chair Ben Bernanke, both rocketed to record highs.

Most analysts had expected the Fed to implement a slow withdrawal of its bond-buying program … a program that presently sees about $85 BILLION worth of bonds being purchased each month.

If yesterday’s Fed move was meant to counteract a slowdown and re-stimulate the housing market … it worked.  Interest rates reacted quickly and moved downwards.

Pair this Fed announcement along with the report released by the Census Bureau showing new building permits and housing starts a bit lower than had been projected … and you understand why the Fed’s decision is seen as such good news by housing professionals … and those hoping to buy or refinance a home.

The rising interest rates seen over the last month or so (a direct result of the prediction that the Fed would taper its bond-buying soon) has definitely taken a toll. Besides the obvious negatives that directly affect hopeful new home buyers, homebuilders, and real estate professionals … there’s the fact that fewer housing starts stagnates the economy through the lack of job growth and spending power.

Meanwhile, local Atlanta homebuilders are still expressing confidence at levels not seen for several years. But concerns were definitely being raised over what was being seen and heard from the Treasury over the last few weeks.

The fact that the Fed recognized that their stimulus was still needed and changed course on actions to curtail bond buying (at least in the short-term) is a huge positive.

My suggestion to anyone that is sitting on the fence regarding an Atlanta home purchase … pick-up the phone and contact me – 678-585-9691. I can refer you to three of the best lenders in Atlanta – so you can take advantage of some of the best mortgage rates in history.

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7th July 2013

Home Prices Up – Mortgage Rates Up

Trend upHome prices in East Cobb and North Fulton have increased month over month for the last four months in a row! Data through April 2013 presented by S&P   Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price   Indices showed average home prices increased 11.6 percent and 12.1   percent for the 10- and 20-City Composites in the 12 months   ending in April 2013.  The   cities of Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Minneapolis posted their highest  annual gains since the start of their respective indices.   Atlanta, Las Vegas,   Phoenix and San Francisco posted year-over-year gains of over 20   percent in April. Mortgage rates are trending up as   well. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) rose from 3.93 percent   last week to 4.46 percent this week; the highest it has been since the week   of July 28, 2011. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.66   percent. This represents the largest weekly increase for the 30-year FRM   since the week ending April 17, 1987. Despite recent gains in mortgage rates,   homebuyer affordability remains which should help fuel the ongoing   housing recovery.

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18th January 2013

Housing Industry Awaits Mortgage Rule On Down Payment Size

If you’re planning to buy a home and have not yet taken advantage of the outstanding home prices and low interest rates you should read this. Things could get a little tougher with regard to downpayment requirements in the next few months. Hopefully regulators like the CFPB won’t go overboard because that will do nothing but harm the economy and hurt the housing recovery which is already nicely underway.

>Housing Industry Awaits Mortgage Rule On Down Payment Size.


Need a referral to a great lender?  Give me a call.

Robert Whitfield
Advantage Realtors

posted in Home Buyers, Mortgages, New Posts | 1 Comment

3rd February 2010

Tax Credits Benefit Both First Time Buyers and Current Homeowners


Closing deadline extended to June 30, repeat buyers offered up to $6,500


Lately, I am getting more and more calls and emails each week asking about the details and deadlines for the home buyer tax credits, so I thought it would be helpful to place a new post on both www.RobertWhitfield.com, and my blog, www.TheWhitfieldAdvantage.com to highlight the main points.  First time homebuyers aren’t the only ones who can claim a tax credit when they purchase a home –current homeowners can take advantage of the tax break as well.

Prospective buyers, both first time buyers, and current homeowners now have until June 30, 2010, to close on their purchase and will need to submit documentation such as their closing statement (HUD 1) along with their tax returns to claim the credit. Buyers can also file an amended return and get their cash even faster. Here are the details:


Credit: Equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, up to $8,000 (ie. buy a home costing at least $100Kand you get the whole $8000.)

Who Qualifies for First Time Buyer Credit:

·                     Those who haven’t owned property in the last three years

·                     Those with income up to $225,000 for couples and $125,000 for individuals (credit phases out for people who make more than these amounts)

·                     Must be at least 18 years of age to claim credit

·                     Purchase price must be $800,000 or less

Important Deadlines:

·                     Buyer have until April 30, 2010, to enter into an accepted (binding) contract for a home purchase

·                     Buyer have until June 30, 2010, to close on the purchase


Credit: Equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, up to $6,500

Who Qualifies for Current Homeowner Credit:

·                     Those who have owned and lived in their principal residence for at least five consecutive years during the past eight years

·                     Those with income up to $225,000 for couples and $125,000 for individuals (credit phases out for people who make more than these amounts)

·                     Must be at least 18 years of age to claim credit

·                     Purchase price must be $800,000 or less

Important Deadlines: (Same as for first time buyers)

·                     Buyers have until April 30, 2010, to enter into binding (accepted) contract for a home purchase

·                     Buyers have until June 30, 2010, to close on the purchase

In addition, buyers have another year to take advantage of the higher loan limit for mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac — set at 125 percent of local median home sales prices, up to a maximum of $729,750 in high-cost housing markets. The Atlanta MSA is NOT considered a high-cost market – we are a normal market. The limit in normal markets will remain $271,050 for FHA and $417,000 for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What this all means is that if you’re even remotely considering buying a home, now’s the time to do it.

Contact Robert Whitfield at 678-585-9691 for more information about these great Buyer Bonuses, as well as other bonuses offered by various metro Atlanta counties for those who qualify, and various Atlanta homebuilder bonuses as well. To learn about our unmatched client level assistance for Buyers – Direct Broker Representation and the Wise Buyer Program, visit: www.TheHomeBuyersRep.com and click Compare Services – this program provides buyers far more benefits, diligent services, and protections than the “industry standard services’ offered by any other agent/realtor in metro Atlanta.

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26th January 2010

Temporary HUD Waiver Should Speed Sales of Foreclosures


Hud has announced a “temporary waiver” of what is known as thier 90 Day No Flipping Rule. This waiver will allow quick resale of foreclosure and other properties owned less than 90 days by the seller, help excess inventory move off the market, and, keep buyers with FHA insured loans from being **shut out of certain great homebuying opportunities – for example those in which an owner has acquired a home from a deceased family member (estate sale) or an investor who bought an investment property and did a nice rehab and where both simply want to resell the property. In such cases, without the New Hud Waiver, a buyer could not buy either home with an FHA loan if the seller had not owned the property for at least 90 days. FHA buyers lost out because these deals were only available to cash buyers or buyers with conventional loans.

**This actually happened to a first time home buyer client of mine not long ago – we put an offer on a great well rehabbed home that I had evaluated and found to be in great structural and mechanical condition. We got our offer accepted on what we thought was a standard resale property only to find out later that the owner was an investor who had acquired the property as a foreclosure only a few weeks prior. This meant my client would have to resubmit her offer some 75+ days later (offers from FHA borrowers cant be accepted by a seller until they have owned the property for at least 90 days) and store furniture for around 1oo – 120 days and move into a temporary apartment while taking the risk of something not closing over that long period of time. This also meant she would risk loosing out on the other great opportunities we had found if this deal did not go through – she (wisely) decided to let that home go and I crafted a legal termination notice to the sellers agent. Not long after, I found her a better property in a completly different and better area – in her case it was meant to be. In many other cases, however, FHA buyers have simply lost out on great deals because of what I have always considered to be a poorly conceived federal “NO FLIPPING” rule that only hurts honest sellers, investors, and buyers.**

Details of the HUD 90 Day Rule and the New Waiver set to take place starting February 1, 2010 and expected to last about 1 year:

Prior to this waiver going into effect, and with certain exceptions, FHA has for some time prohibited insuring a mortgage on a home owned by the seller for less than 90 days. HUD has approved a waiver to this policy in order to give FHA borrowers access to a broader array of recently foreclosed properties.

“This change in policy is temporary and will have very strict conditions and guidelines to assure that predatory practices are not allowed,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.


The policy change will permit buyers to use FHA-insured financing to purchase HUD-owned properties, bank-owned properties, or properties resold through private sales. This will allow homes to resell as quickly as possible, helping to stabilize real estate prices and to revitalize neighborhoods and communities.


This waiver is limited to those sales meeting the following general conditions:

  • All transactions must be arms-length, with no identity of interest between the buyer and seller or other parties participating in the sales transaction.
  • In cases in which the sales price of the property is 20 percent or more above the seller’s acquisition cost, the waiver will only apply if the lender meets specific conditions.
  • The waiver is limited to forward mortgages, and does not apply to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) for purchase program.

Feel free to contact Robert Whitfield at 678-585-9691 for more information on HUD and FHA regulations impacting buyers as well as information about buying REO, Foreclosure, and other properties.

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9th January 2010

Big Gains in Existing-Home Sales as Buyers Respond to Tax Credit


Conditions in the current housing market, with great interest rates and cheaper prices are optimal for buyers with secure jobs – add in the current tax credits of $8000 for first time buyers, or $6500 for buyers with existing homes (both set to expire April 30, 2010) and it doesnt get any better! And plenty of buyers are taking action as the stats below show. 

I just helped a young first time buyer get out of her apartment and into her first home and at the same time qualifiy for the $8000 tax credit – it was really exciting. Like most buyers, rather than waiting until 2009 taxes are filed, she will file an amendment to her 2008 return and the IRS will mail her an $8000 refund check in a few weeks. What an awesome way to cap off the wonderful experience of becoming a new homeowner!

Take a look at some interesting sales statistics from data compiled in a late December 09 report by NAR (National Association of Realtors®):

Existing-home sales rose again in November 09 as first-time buyers rushed to close sales before the original November 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded $8000 tax credit.

Total housing inventory at the end of November declined 1.3 percent to 3.52 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.5-month supply, down from an 7.0-month supply in October.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average loan commitment rate for a 30-year conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.88 percent in November from 4.95 percent in October; the rate was 6.09 percent in November 2008. November 09’s mortgage interest rate of 4.88 was the second lowest on record after bottoming at 4.81 percent in April 2009.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million units in November from 6.09 million in October, and are 44.1 percent higher than the 4.54 million-unit pace in November 2008. Sales remain at the highest level since February 2007 when they hit 6.55 million.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the rise was expected. “This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit, but there are many more potential buyers who can enter the market in the months ahead,” he said. “We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity ramps up for another surge in the spring when buyers take advantage of the expanded tax credit, which hopefully will take us into a self-sustaining market in the second half of 2010. In all, 4.4 million households are expected to claim the tax credit before it expires and balance should be restored to the housing sector with inventories continuing to decline.”

An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 51 percent of homes in November, compared with an upwardly revised 50 percent of transactions in October.
For the second month in a row, sales have risen in all price classes from a year earlier. Prior to October, the only consistent gains were in the lower price ranges.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said conditions are optimal for buyers in the current market. “Inventories have steadily declined and are closer to balanced levels, which indicate home prices in many areas are either stabilizing or could soon stabilize and return to normal appreciation patterns,” she said. “This means buyers still have good choices but are purchasing near the bottom of the price cycle with historically low mortgage interest rates. Throw a tax credit on top and it really doesn’t get any better for buyers with secure jobs and long-term ownership plans.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $172,600 in November, which is 4.3 percent below November 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 33 percent of sales in November, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

Sales are Up, Prices are down!

Single-family home sales jumped 8.5 percent to 5.77 million units in November from 5.32 million units in October – 42.1 percent above the pace in November 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $171,900 in November, down 4.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales in November were 60.1 percent above sales a year ago. The median existing condo price was $178,000 in November – 3.1 percent below November 2008.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 6.6 percent to an annual level of 1.13 million in November, and are 52.7 percent higher than November 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $223,400 – down 13.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 8.4 percent in November to a pace of 1.55 million and are 53.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,800 – a decline of 0.4 percent from November 2008.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 4.8 percent to an annual level of 2.39 million in November and are 44.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,400 – down 1.4 percent from November 2008.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 10.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.46 million in November and are 28.1 percent above November 2008. The median price in the West was $231,100 – 4.1 percent below a year ago.

If you or anyone you know would like to discuss any aspect of Atlanta Real Estate,  such as the Atlanta Housing Market or the Extended Homebuyer Tax Credit, I can be reached at 678-585-9691. For a few examples of some of the unique services I provide to inform and protect homebuyers I represent – services that exceed what other agents can offer, go to http://www.thehomebuyersrep.com/actual_success_stories.htm .
Robert Whitfield, Broker/Owner

Advantage Realtors

posted in Atlanta Housing Market, Buyer Incentives, Mortgages | Comments Off on Big Gains in Existing-Home Sales as Buyers Respond to Tax Credit