Lower home-mortgage rates open the market, but there are offsets

The outlook for the long-troubled housing market is finally brightening. Interest rates are coming down, slowly but surely. Homes will be more affordable, or at least more financeable, in future months.

There has never been a time in recent decades when there has been such a strong positive-negative mix of factors influencing the home-mortgage market as exists today. But the bottom line of these factors is good news to consumers. More and less-expensive mortgage money is on its way.

Government action and the increasing supply of loanable funds are the primary reasons for the likely decline in interest rates.

The lowering of the discount rate by the Federal Reserve Board (cost of money lent to member banks) and the implementation of the All-Savers certificate program Oct. 1 play key roles in the mortgage rate-lowering scenario.

''Interest rates on home loans will probably be in the area of 13 to 15 percent next year,'' says Leo Grebler, professor of economics at the University of California at Los Angeles. However, actions by the Federal Reserve Board could bring the rate down to an even lower level.

The All-Savers certificate program is generating new funds for home-loan coffers, but not to the extent that financing experts had originally predicted.

''The All-Savers program is really a one-year certificate,'' asserts Robert Jacobson, executive vice-president of the Home Savings & Loan Association in California, the largest S&L in the US. ''Therefore, these savings funds will be largely invested in short-term loans.''

The law requires that at least 75 percent of All-Savings certificate funds received by a lending institution be funneled into residential mortgages or related investments. A sizable proportion of these funds now are expected to be targeted at short-term mortgage investments.

Also, most of the new flow of All-Savers funds is streaming from other types of savings accounts. One credible source states that 65 percent of these funds are transferred from other savings accounts, mostly passbook savings.

Builders are expressing disappointment over the weak impact of the All-Savers program in financing new homes.

''A search warrant is needed to find one new house that is being financed from All-Savers certificate funds,'' declares Guy Odom, chief executive officer of U.S. Homes, the nation's largest home-building firm.

Another recent change in the home-financing picture relates to the not-so-dismal prognosis for the fixed-rate, fixed-payment mortgage loan. A few weeks ago, the demise of such loans was being heard from the nation's financial leaders.

''The demise of the fixed-rate mortgage loan has been prematurely announced, '' says Don Hill, vice-president of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.

''The fixed-rate home loan will be available, along with other types of mortgage instruments, for a long time to come,'' he predicts. Mr. Jacobson of the Home Savings and Loan Association of California agrees.

Another development that could affect the future availability of home-mortgage loans is the now-pending Pratt bill, named after the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. If passed by Congress, it would allow S&Ls to use 100 percent of their assets for various types of short-term commercial and consumer loans. These banklike loans now are limited to 20 percent of S&L assets.

A recent proposal by the comptroller of the currency would result in federal legislation that would override state laws that now prohibit or restrict enforcement of due-on-sale clauses.

If the proposal is successful, a home buyer would no longer be able to assume an existing mortgage loan (with a due-on-sale clause incorporated into the mortgage note) without the approval of the lender. This could mean the interest rate would be pushed up to the currently prevailing rate and could include other changes in the mortgage provisions as well.

This could cause a major new problem in home financing. More than half the purchase of existing (used) homes today involve some form of mortgage assumption.

Despite the gloomy aspects of the home-financing picture, the total view of prospects on the horizon looks good.

Most people in the home-building and lending businesses today agree that the 40 million young Americans who will move into the house-buying-age range during the 1980s need all the help they can get to acquire a home of their own.

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