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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Homebuilders Offering Mortgage Rates Below 4 Percent

Homebuilders Offering 4 Percent Mortgages
Home builders Offering 4 Percent Mortgages
Home builders like Lennar, Hovnanian Enterprises and Toll Brothers are offering qualified customers mortgage rates below 4% in an effort to generate sales. Here's a clip from a recent WSJ article:

"...As mortgage rates fall to near historic lows, some home builders are offering even lower interest rates, in an effort to lure buyers amid the slow spring selling season.

The latest sales promotion: Lennar Corp. is offering a fixed 3.625% rate over the life of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. The deal is besting average rates that have fallen below 5% nationwide, but it comes as other builders are reporting mixed results from similar incentives.

Hovnanian Enterprises Inc.'s recent offer of a 3.99% rate sparked "underwhelming" interest from home buyers, says Dan Klinger, president of the builder's mortgage operation. "It wasn't like we needed crowd control," says Mr. Klinger.

Earlier this year, luxury builder Toll Brothers Inc. was offering a 3.99% interest rate in many of its developments nationwide, but today that rate is no longer available nationally. Toll executives have said that the promotion boosted traffic to its Web site, but the low rate alone hasn't been enough to break weak consumer confidence that is still weighing on the market.

Bargain mortgage rates are the latest sales strategy from builders struggling to sell homes. Mounting unemployment continues dogging the sector, because people without jobs, or those afraid of losing one, are unlikely to purchase, no matter how low the rate.

Since the downturn began, builders have tried everything from free tropical vacations to subsidized closing costs in order to move inventory. They then cut costs and even offered layaway plans for down payments.

For home buyers, the low mortgage rates from the builders represent significant savings. But be wary of the fine print: Lennar is offering the 30-year rate "on select homes," and the loan amount cannot exceed $417,000. The minimum credit score is 700, which is a relatively high score in the current environment. In addition, it could be hard for buyers to come up with the minimum 10% down payment that Lennar requires to qualify for the 3.625% rate.

The builders' low rates may help first-time home buyers, "but it's not going to goose the trade-up market," says Thomas Lawler, a housing economist. "That's because most trade-up buyers use the equity from their previous home for a down payment, and that equity often doesn't exist any more."

KB Home is one builder that isn't chasing buyers with low mortgage rates, for now. Instead, the Los Angeles builder is focusing on offering smaller houses that are competitively priced with foreclosed houses. The strategy seems to be helping KB, which reported on Friday that its sales improved more than some analysts expected..."

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