The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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October 5, 2013

Shutdown undercuts mortgage industry's loan approvals



Green sold his Toyota Tundra truck two weeks ago to pay closing costs. If he doesn't close Oct. 16, the bank has told Ibach the house will be sold at auction four days later.

The government shutdown comes amid a two-year surge in home prices as buyers have taken advantage of historically low mortgage rates. Even as rates have edged up in recent months, sales have not dampened as much as economists feared. Sales of existing homes reached a six-year high in August.

For federal employees applying for a mortgage, the situation is even more daunting. With the government closed, verifying their income could prove impossible.

"Who's going to be there to verify that someone works for the government?" said Peggy Ferris, an agent with Long & Foster. "No one."

The shutdown and deep federal budget cuts are also making some lenders more cautious about extending loans to federal workers. Wells Fargo has begun requiring borrowers who work for the government to disclose whether their jobs are at risk of being affected by budget cuts "or if they're at risk of being furloughed in any way," said Ryan Dailey, a lender with Prosperity Mortgage, a Wells Fargo affiliate.

Home sellers are already starting to get jittery, several agents said.

"They're asking, 'If people are not going to be buying my house because they can't get mortgages, should I take it off?' " Rosner said. "Or maybe I shouldn't put it on the market."

Since the government shutdown, nearly 500 residential listings have been taken off the market in the District of Columbia, Southern Maryland's Montgomery County and Northern Virginia's Fairfax County, according to the Metropolitan Regional Information System. In the District of Columbia, that represents about 7 percent of all listings.

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