Business

Long-struggling house market benefits from low interest rates

Ted and Sandy Allyn recently completed their second refinancing of their home in Richmond. They got a 15-year loan at 3.375 percent. "We're both getting closer to retirement age, and we want to have our house paid off," Sandy Allyn said.
Ted and Sandy Allyn recently completed their second refinancing of their home in Richmond. They got a 15-year loan at 3.375 percent. "We're both getting closer to retirement age, and we want to have our house paid off," Sandy Allyn said. HERALD-LEADER

With the dramatic decline in mortgage rates in recent years, some homeowners may be under the impression they refinanced too early.

Think again.

Local banks say they are continuing to see a great deal of interest in refinancing, even from people who just refinanced in the past two years. It's all driven by record-low mortgage rates that are also helping to shore up interest in the long-struggling housing market.

Ted and Sandy Allyn of Richmond bought their home five years ago, but the couple just recently completed their second refinancing.

The first refinancing at 4.75 percent for their 30-year loan shaved off some costs, but the pair grew even bolder recently. This time, they worked with Cumberland Valley National Bank to refinance into a 15-year loan at 3.375 percent.

The monthly payment went up a little bit, but the Allyns said they have plans to pay off the loan sooner.

"Our plan is to make extra payments to have our house paid off in eight years instead of 15," Sandy Allyn said. "We're both getting closer to retirement age, and we want to have our house paid off."

Refinances have been the bulk of loan volumes recently as many people are looking toward 15-year deals, said Tim Edwards, senior loan officer at Cumberland Valley.

"The interest savings by cutting out those years is enormous," he said. "And that's very encouraging for folks because you know you're really starting to build equity in your property when you shorten your time frame."

Brian and Deanna Cooper of Lexington also recently refinanced with Cumberland Valley into a 15-year loan at 3.25 percent. They had been paying 4.875 percent on a 30-year loan.

"Someday I would like to be able to retire and having your loan paid off at some point in that retirement time frame would be a real nice burden to not have to worry about," Brian Cooper said.

The story is much the same at Central Bank, where refinancings have been a popular option, said Steve Kelly, executive vice president for marketing and sales.

"Each case is different depending on where they are, how long they've had the loan and that sort of thing, but refinancing can certainly work," Kelly said. "As a matter of fact, my wife and I refinanced this year."

The low rates are also spurring more interest in home purchases, as Kelly noted the bank is seeing more interest from first-time homebuyers and those upgrading to their next home. He noted "the very highest end" remains a little soft.

Keith Rector, vice president at Rector-Hayden Realtors, said the rates are attracting lots of attention from potential homebuyers.

"I got in the business in '82, and interest rates were 17 percent. I remember when they came down below 10, we thought we had died and gone to heaven," he said. "Here they are below 4. In a few years, we'll look back at this time and know this was the time to buy."

And Fayette County property valuation administrator David O'Neill said the larger inventory of homes on the market mean more options for those interested in buying.

"If you're in a position to buy, by all means get out there and buy," he said.

Lexington's Josh and Lauren Barnes did just that with Rector-Hayden, closing earlier this month on a $121,000 home off Liberty Road. The couple used Rector-Hayden's loan officers and received a fixed 3.625 percent rate on a 30-year loan.

"My brother bought a house three years ago, and his rate was locked in at 5.2 percent," Josh Barnes said. "I just look at this, and I'm really happy with what we got. You just can't beat it."

For people uneasy about the homebuying process, Edwards of Cumberland Valley encourages you to ask questions.

"The thing we're dealing with the most is the negative media about banks not wanting to lend or making it impossible to qualify," he said. "What we're telling people is be careful what you're listening to and don't assume you don't qualify."

He encourages potential buyers to fill out free online applications.

"We'll run you through the process and come back and say you either qualify for this or if you don't qualify, tell you what you need to work on specifically to qualify," he said. "Just don't assume that banks are out there not wanting to loan on a new home."

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