Fed plan buoys hopes for affordable financing

David Vindiola
David Vindiola
Lonnie Knob
Lonnie Knob

If the marketplace hates the uncertainty of an up-and-down stock market, the marketplace might love an announcement from the Federal Reserve that short-term interest rates will remain low for at least another two years.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced earlier in August the Federal Open Market Committee expects to keep the benchmark federal funds rate at between 0 and 0.25 percent through mid-2013. That means the interest rates on financing also are likely to remain low.

The news comes as a relief to mortgage brokers who bring lenders and buyers together.

“We’ve definitely seen an effect,” said Lonnie Knob, branch manager of Envoy Mortgage in Grand Junction.

About 10 clients applied to refinance their mortgages within a week of Bernanke’s Aug. 9 announcement, Knob said. Prior to the announcement, the volume of applications for refinancing had slowed, he said. “They had more than leveled off. They came to a halt.”

While Knob doesn’t deal in commercial mortgages, his business is tied to commercial activity. Low interest rates can spur commercial construction and the opening of new businesses. Such activity represents new jobs and potentially more families that can qualify for mortgages.

“The most important thing is people with jobs,” Knob said. “That’s a priority for us.”

One possible downside to the promise of low interest rates is that some buyers might believe rates could fall even more.

“But what if interest rates go up?” asked David Vindiola, a mortgage planning specialist for CMG Mortgage in Grand Junction. “People can save money on interest now.”

Vindiola views current market problems as a matter of perception as much as reality. There’s not a real debt crisis, but a concern about the debt, he said. “Volatility is causing concerns for people. It affects the housing sector and real estate overall.”

But investments connected to real estate can be wise, he said. “It makes a lot of sense to put funds into bonds and mortgage-backed securities.”

Vindiola said banks might be more willing to loan to businesses than they were a year ago. Predictions of widespread commercial foreclosures were off the mark, so banks might lend more freely to businesses seeking to build or expand, he said.

Knob’s company also works in North Dakota, where the economy is booming in places because of oil extraction. The production has spawned a housing shortage similar to what occurred in Western Colorado during the natural gas boom from 2005 to 2008. The mortgage business should grow as more homes and apartment buildings are constructed, Knob said.

“Nearly everyone I talk to is being sent up there to work,” he added.

Another sign of the times is companies searching to merge with competitors to shave costs and increase efficiencies.

“I get e-mails probably every other day from companies looking to increase their footprint,” Knob said.

Envoy has expanded its operation in Colorado over the past year, he said.

Vindiola’s company, MVM Mortgage, merged with CMG Mortgage this year and he’s pursing his own project that could include commercial and residential construction on the Redlands. “Everything’s so affordable,” he said. “There are prices we haven’t seen since the ’70s or ’60s when adjusted for inflation.”

Still, market uncertainty continues to give people pause when it comes to commercial investments. Mortgage brokers and others connected to commercial real estate hope the uncertainty will subside in the near future.