New Refinancing Fee Could Roil Mortgage Market

August 13, 2020

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced a new mortgage refinancing fee that could cost homeowners about $1,500 extra on a $300,000 loan. The fee will apply to loans delivered to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac starting Sept. 1, which means it could impact current refinancing applications.

The fee is “the absolute wrong policy at the wrong time,” Vince Malta, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, said in a statement Thursday. “It directly contravenes the administration’s own directives for federal agencies to do no harm to homeowners during the coronavirus crisis. It is especially troubling, since the GSEs use their profits from refinances to support home buyers in underserved markets—meaning those communities already suffering the most will be harmed the most by this action. Home values and residential real estate are a rock for the American economy right now. We should do everything we can to lower costs for households during this crisis, not make homeownership more expensive.”

The FHFA, which regulates Fannie and Freddie, has implemented a new price adjustment for refinance transactions of 0.5% of the loan amount. The new fee, which does not affect mortgage applications for home purchases, was added “in light of market and economic uncertainty,” a bulletin from Freddie Mac notes.

As mortgage rates dip to new lows, homeowners continue to rush to refinance, accounting for 65.7% of total mortgage applications. The Sept. 1 enactment date of the new fee means some refinancings already being processed may be affected. If the refinance application is already locked in, lenders will be unable to adjust and will have to absorb the fee themselves. However, if the refinance application isn’t locked, the consumer likely will have to pay the fee, HousingWire reports.

Bob Broeksmit, CEO and president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, urged the FHFA to withdraw its “ill-timed” directive. “The housing market has been able to withstand many of the most severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Broeksmit said in a statement. “The recent refinance activity has not only helped homeowners lower their monthly payments, but it is also reducing risk to the GSEs and taxpayers. This announcement is bad for our nation’s homeowners and the nascent economic recovery.”

Source: 
FHFA Drops a Bomb; Your Refi Just Got Much More Expensive,” Mortgage News Daily (Aug. 12, 2020); “New Fee on Mortgage Refinances Could Cost Homeowners $1,400,” HousingWire (Aug. 13, 2020); and Freddie Mac