Here are three of the top financial news stories of the week, gathered from around the web:
Trapped by a bargain
Homeowners with low-rate mortgages are reluctant to remove their “golden handcuffs,” Nicole Friedman said in The Wall Street Journal. “Housing inventory has risen from record lows earlier this year as more homes stay on the market longer.” But the number of newly listed homes in the four weeks ending September 18 fell 20% from a year earlier, according to Redfin. Many potential sellers are staying put because of their current mortgages, said deputy chief economist Odeta Kushi at First American Financial. “What is their incentive to move and lock in a potentially 3 percentage point higher rate?” The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate topped 6% last week. In July, “more than two-thirds of first mortgages had a rate below 4%”.
Beware of Parent PLUS Loans
The federal government is giving out huge loans to colleges with almost no underwriting standards, Ron Lieber said in The New York Times. The Parent PLUS loan has become “a subprime loan scheme”, according to financial aid experts, trapping low-income families in a 25-year debt trap. When they were first introduced in 1980, “you could only borrow $3,000 a year.” This cap was lifted in 1992. Today, virtually anyone without a very turbulent recent credit history can borrow six figures for tuition, regardless of income. Moral hazard hits a wall as families realize the loans carry an interest rate that is now 7.54%, “plus a whopping 4.23% origination fee”. And “if you default, the government uses part of your social security check.”
Autos always command big markups
Paying above list price for a new car continues to be the norm, Jessica Dickler told CNBC. The average new car transaction price hit a record high of $46,259 in August, up 10% from a year ago. That’s well above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for most models. A new Jeep Wrangler “currently sells for 24% above MSRP, or about $8,433 above retail price,” according to iSeeCars. Several luxury SUVs, such as the Lexus RX 450h and Genesis GV70, are also selling at a 20% premium. In addition, vehicle financing is also becoming more expensive. The average annual percentage rate on a new car reached 5.7% in August, compared to around 4% in January.
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