Government Shutdown Limits New Mortgages, Experts Say

Congress during storm
A widespread government shutdown impacted mortgage loan applications more than interest rates did this week.

Rate reports provided by show that mortgage loan interest rates declined minimally for the week ending Oct. 3, 2013.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.08 percent, down from 4.15 percent last week.

The 15-year FRM averaged 3.11 percent, another decrease from 3.18 percent reported last week.

The final rate, the 5/1 adjustable shifted down only four basis points. The rate went from 2.96 percent last week to 2.92 percent this week.

Don Frommeyer, president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB), said that despite the shutdown, business is as usual in the housing market except for three areas dealing mainly with information verification.

First, lenders can’t confirm potential borrower’s tax information via the IRS 4506 verification. Secondly, the shutdown extends to the Social Security offices, leaving identification information inaccessible. Finally, Frommeyer said that any government employee in the mortgage loan application process will likely have to wait for the government to reopen so their employer can verify their employment status.

The shutdown will also impact housing agencies that are already late. Frommeyer said that the USDA was already 57-60 days behind schedule before the shutdown and it will only worsen.

“I would like the government to go back to work so everything can be straightened out,” he said.

Although the shutdown could have an impact on mortgage loan interest rates if it continues for several weeks, Frommeyer said the debt ceiling is a greater concern. If the debt ceiling is not raised, it could have a sweeping impact on the bond market and the stock market.

“If we are still down and they don’t do something about this debt ceiling, who knows what’s going to happen,” he said.

Other housing professionals believe that the shutdown has impacted the housing market more significantly. Bruce Taylor, president of ERA Key Realty Services, said it has been “pretty horrendous” on mortgages and interest rates.

But the total impact depends solely on the length of the shutdown.

“One week, no problem. One month, big problem,” Taylor said.

Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage loan interest rate survey, which is used by housing experts across the country, was not released due to the shutdown. These reports, in addition to jobless claims, are required in order to determine the market’s direction.

Taylor said there are multiple things that consumers and economists get from government reporting systems and without them, it will create uncertainty.

“If it goes on for many weeks, it’s going to wear every little corner of the financial market,” he said.