COVID-19 Resources

CDC COVID-19 Page
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Updated June 22, 2020

We’ve gathered resources for you during this pandemic.
Let’s work together to inspire hope.

Let this be a place for you to stay informed on buying, selling, and just living at home during this unprecedented time.


Market Education


Buying or Selling a Home

How COVID-19 has changed the mind of potential homebuyers

A recent housing industry article summarized a survey of 200 homebuyers who had planned to purchase a house within six months before the outbreak of COVID-19 and found that the outbreak has amplified many of their existing homebuying concerns and has made clear the value of technology and human expertise. Some key findings of the survey:

Homebuyers motivated to speed up the buying process

  • 45.6% of homebuyers said they are motivated to speed up their moving timeline because they think they’ll get a good deal on a home; 56.5% said low interest rates are a major factor.
  • 45.7% of first-time homebuyers who are expediting the process think an open floor plan is more important than before COVID-19; 43.5% think extra bedrooms are more important now than before.

Buyers using virtual tours more

  • 41% of buyers who are expediting the process said virtual tours are more valuable now than prior to COVID-19; 42% of those delaying the process said virtual tours are more valuable now than before.
  • 54% said the inability to see homes in person is a factor in their homebuying decisions.
  • 41% said there was an increase in remote communication with agents (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime).

Other

  • 32.6% said they still met with agents in person.
  • 60% of first-time homebuyers said they’re concerned about employment prospects.

Is now a good time to buy?

Actually, yes! At times like this, Academy’s goal remains the same: to deliver the dream of homeownership to as many families and individuals as possible.

With Academy’s virtual home financing, borrowers can use our My Mortgage: Mobile app to get pre-approved now and apply for a loan without leaving home. Also, Academy can partner with real estate agents to create Single Property Websites with virtual tours to feature home listings.

Following agency guidance, full appraisals remain the standard requirement on all transactions. In the event an appraiser cannot complete an interior inspection, Academy’s Appraisal Team will provide an allowable alternative, which may include a desktop, drive-by, or exterior-only appraisal.

As we always advise clients, your decision about whether to buy a home should be based on a more wholistic view of your personal needs and timing, and not based on the gyrations of the market. If your timing to buy a home coincides with a low interest rate period, that’s fortunate—and if not (you buy during a higher rate period), you can always refinance when rates are more favorable.

Click here for some in-depth FAQs about mortgage, including what the loan process entails and what materials you need to apply for a mortgage.

Four reasons to get pre-approved NOW

  1. Pre-approval puts you in the best position to move quickly to buy when rates improve and the time is right.
  2. Adds validity and strength to your offer. Sellers are more likely to accept your offer when they find out you are pre-approved. Pre-approval helps clients make an early offer and be more competitive! 
  3. Saves time, energy, and frustration. Getting your financial documents ready for pre-approval helps clients avoid problems with your loan down the road, which speeds up the loan application process.
  4. Helps you determine how much you can afford. Once pre-approved, you will have a good idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home based on debt, income, and credit. You will also have an estimate of how much money you’ll need for closing costs and a down payment.

Click here for even more reasons to plan for the future with pre-approval.

Can I buy or sell a home virtually?

Our team is prepared and equipped to use technology to its fullest. You can reach your Loan Officer by phone, text, email, or video conference.

With Academy’s virtual home financing, borrowers can use our My Mortgage: Mobile app to get pre-approved now and apply for a loan without leaving home. Also, Academy can partner with real estate agents to create Single Property Websites with virtual tours to feature home listings.

Don’t hesitate to contact your Loan Officer with any question or home financing need.

Should I still use a real estate agent to buy or sell?

Here are three benefits of working with a real estate agent:

  1. The human touch. Providing that you find an agent with whom you really click, nothing quite compares to the interactions you’ll get through working with a human. Online software may save money initially in the home-buying process, but the connection a buyer or seller makes with their agent—who will work with your best interest in mind—is infinitely more valuable.
  2. For buying, location-specific insights. Not ever buyer is going to be looking for a home in a new neighborhood or a distant location, but this is where that connection between you and an agent can really help the buying process work for you. Agents know the lay of the land better than the average citizen and better than a program that only pushes data.
  3. Diplomatic negotiations. When your personal interests are on the line, maintaining a level head during the negotiation phase could prove to be the undoing of your sale or purchase. An agent will have the wisdom and you have the guarantee that they’ll work with your best interests in mind (this guarantee comes with being a licensed agent).

8 features that will take priority when shopping for a home

A recent U.S. News article highlights eight priorities that many homebuyers will have when the pandemic risk has diminished. Sheltering in place for months on end has made all of us think about the concept of home in new ways as we plan for the future. Here are eight priorities that will likely become prevalent for many homebuyers:

 

  1. Light and space. Light-filled, airy homes are better for our morale and home activities.
  2. Space for cooking. We’ve discovered that home cooking can be fun, nutritious, and save money!
  3. Privacy. Family members, including kids, need space for a timeout from non-stop family time.
  4. Energy efficiency. More time at home means more use of energy, gas, water, etc.
  5. Space for working out. Physical fitness promotes both physical and mental well-being.
  6. Outdoor space. Having private, accessible outdoor space for sunshine and activities is wonderful.
  7. Home office space and tech connections. Both freelancers and corporate workers need these.
  8. Less focus on building amenities. In multifamily buildings, features like fitness centers, pools, children’s playrooms, etc., were among the first things to shut down during quarantine.

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Market Education

How loans are packaged and delivered—The life cycle of a loan

The following diagram shows a general, high-level overview of how mortgage loans become “mortgage-backed securities” (MBSs) that are sold to investors. It doesn’t show the details or variations in the process for different situations. If you have questions, please contact your Academy Mortgage Loan Officer.

Loan Process Chart

How are rates set?

The short answer is that Fed rate cuts do NOT directly affect mortgage rates. Each of the last three times the Fed cut their rate, for example, the immediate reaction in the mortgage market was that rates actually increased. Academy is constantly monitoring the changing mortgage rates. Meanwhile, we will keep you posted, but please feel free to call your Academy Loan Officer.

Servicing can also impact the rate Academy is able to offer. Academy manages a significant servicing portfolio. At this time, in order to keep rates competitive, we will continue to bring servicing in-house as the market allows to keep our pricing competitive.

What history tells us about the housing market

Since the Great Depression of 1929-1939, the U.S. has had many recessions. They each lasted an average of only 11 months and were generally a good time to buy a home. However, you must be aware of your own circumstances as well as the potential pros and cons of buying during a recession.

Many of the economic recessions since 1939 had falling stock prices, high interest rates, high unemployment rates, and a loss of consumer confidence—but for buyers in the right circumstances, these recessions were good times to buy real estate. Here are some factors for you, your real estate agent, and mortgage loan officer to consider in deciding whether to buy during a recession, including some potential advantages and disadvantages:

  • Be honest about your financial circumstances. Is your job or business dependable enough to allow you to make monthly mortgage payments?
  • Don't try to time the rock bottom of the market. Real estate moves in cycles, so prices will likely be on the upswing by the time you realize they’ve hit bottom. 
  • A title search is important. Sellers in financial distress might be behind not only on their properties but also on their other financial obligations as well. So be sure to have a thorough title search done to ensure that there aren’t any liens placed against the property by contractors, taxing authorities, or lending institutions. Be aware if the property has been in foreclosure or short sale.
  • Potential advantages of buying during a recession.
    • Counter-offer a formerly high price. A seller’s price may be too high in a depressed market, so you could offer a more realistic price. 
    • Ask for extras. You may be able to get the seller to throw in some extras, like a lawn mower, or negotiate closing costs.
  • Potential disadvantages of buying during a recession.
    • Extra repairs. Some low-priced homes will require repairs, so inspect carefully or hire a good appraiser to do it for you. (If the house requires major repairs—or if you just want to remodel it to suit your needs—consider an all-in-one Academy Renovation Loan, which includes the purchase price and renovations in one mortgage.)
    • Stripped-off features. Fixtures (sinks, wiring, etc.) aren’t personal property, so they should stay with the house, but some desperate sellers rip out copper pipes, etc., so be aware.
    • Location. Don’t buy a house in a poor location just because it’s low-priced—you’ll be unhappy now and when it’s time to sell. 

Market News

Click here for the most recent industry news.

Fed pledges to maintain current pace of MBS purchases

The Federal Reserve pledged last Wednesday, June 10, to keep buying Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) to the tune of about $120 billion a month. The Fed’s presence in the bond markets, an emergency measure to support the economy during the pandemic, keeps credit flowing and puts downward pressure on mortgage rates.

Free credit reports are now available for everyone, every week, instead of just once per year—from all 3 credit agencies!

The big three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—have announced that people can now access a free credit report from each of them once per week, not just once per year. People can access their free weekly credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com every week through April 2021. Please note that this free weekly credit report does not include a person’s credit score.

The three companies said they are making the free weekly reports available to help people protect their financial health during the hardship caused by COVID-19. The companies said: “Consumers are advised to review their credit reports frequently to understand the information that is being reported about their payment behavior.” This will help them “better manage their finances and take necessary steps to protect their credit standing.”

Mortgage rates remain near record lows

According to the latest data released by Freddie Mac, the rebound in homebuyer demand continued this week, driven by mortgage rates that hover near record lows. This turnaround in demand, particularly by those who have higher incomes than the typical household, also reflects deferred sales from the spring season.

“To support the flow of credit to households and businesses, over the coming months the Federal Reserve will increase its holdings of Treasury securities and agency residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities at least at the current pace to sustain smooth market functioning,” the Fed’s Open Market Committee said.

Virtual house-selling, homebuying, and home financing in a pandemic

Spring is normally peak season for the housing market, but social distancing regulations have changed house-hunting and house-selling procedures in several ways. A recent NBC News story said the pandemic situation “has pushed some real estate agents to get creative, ushering in a new era of virtual home showings, Facebook live open houses and ‘drive-thru’ closings to let house hunters buy their next homes virtually unseen.”

Read the story here, or visit our page on virtual homebuying here.

Academy’s virtual home financing option. Academy Mortgage is pleased to provide a virtual financing option that allows homebuyers to get a home loan for purchase or refinance without leaving the comfort of their home! Using our My Mortgage: Mobile app, buyers can get a quick pre-approval, fill out the loan application, electronically sign disclosures, upload documents, and stay updated on the loan process through the app. Call an Academy Loan Officer today to get started with our free My Mortgage App! 

Housing market remains strong and mortgage rates will likely remain low

Narin Seera, Vice President of Capital Markets Operations at Academy Mortgage, says: “While the U.S. housing market remains strong for new and existing home sales, the promise from Federal Reserve to maintain the current low rates through 2022 provides further impetus to the U.S. real estate market and the sector financing it.”

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Home Financing

Yes, Academy is still open for business and ready to help YOU

Deemed an essential business by the state, Academy is still open for business and has taken all the steps necessary to keep delivering the dream of homeownership. Our team is continuing in our daily roles and responsibilities to originate, process, underwrite, and fund loans as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, to keep our customers and team members safe, our physical branch location is closed to the public.

“Academy Mortgage is committed to meeting our clients’ and partners’ home financing needs at the highest level of service, whether in-person in our branches or in virtual working conditions. At times like this, our goal remains the same: to deliver the dream of homeownership to as many families and individuals as possible.”

—James Mac Pherson, CEO

Impact on product offerings

Product offerings across the industry are changing at a rapid pace. In some instances, this fluidity has required temporary product suspensions in order to allow time to gather and assess information. Please note that these product offering changes are not exclusive to Academy but are actions being taken industrywide. Academy is still proud to offer one of the largest product portfolios in the industry.

We have the industry’s core product line ready to provide solutions for your buyers: FHA, Conventional, USDA, and VA Loans are still available!

Does Academy offer mortgage payment relief or forbearance?

What is mortgage forbearance?
Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to temporarily pay your mortgage at a lower payment or pause paying your mortgage. You will have to pay the payment reduction or the paused payments back later. Forbearance can help you deal with a hardship, such as, if your home was damaged in a flood, you had an illness or injury that increased your healthcare costs, or you lost your job. Forbearance does not erase the amount you owe on your mortgage. You will have to repay any missed or reduced payments. Forbearance is not forgiveness.

I’m a borrower. Whom should I contact if I have questions about forbearance?

  • Please call your loan servicer to discuss your options. If Academy is your loan servicer, please call the Academy Mortgage Servicing Team at (844)568-4718 to discuss your options.
  • For additional information about forbearance, please visit the website of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) by clicking on this link. Or search “forbearance” at the CFPB website.

Credit score requirements and protecting your credit score

Due to current market conditions, the minimum FICO requirement for all FHA, VA, and USDA loans ONLY will be temporarily raised to 660 and a maximum DTI ratio of 50%.

Your credit reports and scores play an important role in your future financial opportunities. Click here for four steps you can use to manage and protect your credit during the COVID-19 pandemic, published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Thriving at Home

20 tips to help you thrive during isolation

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo says, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” “So do I,” says Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” During these challenging times of social distancing, here are some resources to help you and your family make the most of your time at home:       

  1. Go on live safari from South Africa. When viewers join a WildEarth safariLIVE tour, they ride virtually with rangers to visit private game reserves to see elephants, rhinos, leopards, etc. Tours are twice daily: 9:00 a.m.-12 noon ET and 12:30 a.m.-3:30 a.m. ET. For all ages, but parental guidance is advised. During April more than 1.1 million viewers joined the tours.
  2. Explore.org, world’s largest live nature cam network. Get up close and personal in real-time with animals around the globe: eagle nest in Iowa, owls in Montana, sea otters in California, manatees in Florida, and much, much more!
  3. Famous actors read books to your kids! Get free access to videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. All for free. Readers include Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Kristen Bell, Rita Moreno, Viola Davis, Kevin Costner, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman, Betty White, & many more. Storyline Online receives over 100 million views annually from children all over the world.
  4. Learn guitar with Laura Marling, @lauramarling. Joining this British folk singer and guitarist every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET for weekly livestreaming guitar tutorials on Instagram. Since late March Laura has posted more than a dozen 10-to-15-minute videos geared toward beginning guitarists. She has tens of thousands of views.
  5. Easy homemade ice cream! In a 16-oz. Mason jar, put 1 cup heavy cream, 1½ tablespoons sugar, 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Screw lid on tightly. Shake vigorously for about 5 minutes, till cream thickens and doubles in size. If you want, add chopped berries, banana, coconut, mini chocolate chips, etc. Freeze 3-4 hours. Serves 3. Enjoy!
  6. Go backyard or indoor camping. Pitch the tent, build a campfire (or light the BBQ or build a fire in the fireplace), cook dinner, toast marshmallows, sing songs, and tell stories.
  7. Play human mirror. Stand face-to-face with a partner. One person is the leader. They perform a series of moves, and their partner must follow their lead and do the same thing, like a mirror.
  8. Play sock basketball. Ball up a few pairs of socks, get a laundry basket, and take turns shooting to score. For more of a challenge, switch to a smaller basket or box, or take a step backwards and go for the long shot!
  9. Play 20 Questions. One person thinks of an object or topic and another person has 20 questions to guess what it is!
  10. Play the Alphabet Game. Choose a theme; take turns with letters of the alphabet, coming up with things within the theme. For example, in the theme “animals,” you could have ape, baboon, chipmunk, duck, etc. Other themes: movies, household items, food, etc. 
  11. Visit virtual aquariums, zoos, volcanoes, rainforests, and more: Watch the many amazing webcams of the San Diego Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and more! Zebras, crocodiles, giraffes, pandas, koalas, whales, penguins, sea lions, etc. Take 25 amazing field trips to Yellowstone, volcanoes, rainforests, coral reefs, planetarium, a Canadian farm, Seattle Aquarium, etc.
  12. Explore “Harry Potter at Home.” Author J.K. Rowling just announced that this new service for students, parents, and teachers offers several educational tools to cast “a Banishing Charm on boredom!” Tools include craft videos (like how to draw a Niffler), fun articles, quizzes, puzzles, and more—for first-time readers as well as those already familiar with the wizarding world.
  13. Draw every day with JJK. J.J. Krosoczka, known for his Lunch Lady graphic novels, hosts daily drawing sessions on YouTube. He teaches basic illustration techniques. At the end of each session, he has drawing games for kids and parents to play together.
  14. Watch free replays of NFL games, 2009-2019. Valid until 7/31/20. If you don’t have time for the full broadcast, replay an entire game in 45 minutes with condensed games. It's every play, back-to-back-to-back. If you want to break down tape like the pros, check out the All-22 angle Coaches Film footage.
  15. ¿Hablas español? Parli italiano? Have fun learning a new language online in just 10-15 minutes a day—for free! Duolingo has tons of languages to choose from!
  16. Crowdpurr: Fun, free virtual games for up to 20 people on their phones! Play with friends and family across town or across the country. Create your own trivia questions or use theirs. Create amazing interactive mobile-driven experiences!
  17. Top 10 virtual museum tours—free! Visit the world's most popular museums. Several of the tours, powered by Google Street View technology, feature 360-degree panoramic views. Museums include the Louvre, Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Van Gogh Museum, Getty Museum, and more.
  18. Games and singalongs: Bring out checkers, chess, Monopoly, and other board games. For younger children, check out these online kids’ singalongs.
  19. Pull out your guitar or cello, sit at the piano, warm up your voice—whatever your interest. YouTube has lots of great music instruction.
  20. Workout! Check out this home workout video—you can find even more online. If nothing else, take a daily walk!

Morning meditation: don’t skip this important mind setting moment

During this time of anxiety and worry surrounding COVID-19 and sorting out our new “normal” routines, it can be easy to let our emotional self-care fall to the wayside. Don’t allow that to happen.

Executive Coach Daniel Harkavy recently discussed the importance of keeping a morning routine with Academy Mortgage employees. He shared his morning routine and recommended that everyone include time for meditation in theirs.

There are several benefits to mindful meditation, even if you can only spare five minutes. Meditation can help increase self-awareness, reduce stress, and improve concentration.

Not sure where to start? There are many resources and free guided meditation sessions available online. Here is a link to one recently recommended to Academy Employees.

Social distancing without distancing socially

Social contact can help us cope with stress and major life changes. It provides a feeling of knowing we are valued, helps us forget negative aspects of our lives, and gives us an opportunity to think more positively. Social interactions and contact are good for mental health. It is more important than ever to maintain social connections during this time of social distancing and stay at home orders. Here are a few simple ideas to help keep you connected to your friends and loved ones.

Attend virtual classes and events. Book Club doesn’t have to end because of social distancing, but the format needs to change. Make it virtual. There are many applications available to make this possible. Use Zoom or Google Hangouts to host your call and discuss your most recent read. Many classes are available online and there are several that are free. They vary in subjects from learning a new language, cooking instruction, or fitness. Take the classes with friends and form a study group. 

Connect with family at home and virtually. When practicing social distancing at home with your family, make time to connect. Consider creating new traditions like game time after dinner or a walk every morning. Find common interests and build activities around that. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Being away from family during this time can be difficult, but there are some applications available that make connecting with them easy. Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts have the capability for chat as well as video calls. If game nights are your thing check out this article find your favorites and get your game on!

Connect with friends and have virtual parties. Social distancing makes getting together with friends nearly impossible, but with a few tools and some creativity, it can still happen. Consider hosting a Netflix Party or a Facebook Watch Party. Watch your favorite shows or movies with friends in real-time no matter where they are. If the social interaction is what you’re missing the most, schedule a virtual coffee date or happy hour and get together and make memories with your friends. 

Stay in touch with your friends and family, be creative, find activities you can enjoy together, and most importantly, have fun!

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