5 Reasons to Stop Worrying About Home Prices, by Eric Schurenberg, Huffingtonpost.com

The New York Times more or less pronounced the single family home dead as an asset this week. Data from the National Association of Realtors and theFederal Home Financing Agency hammered some nails into the coffin. But come now, folks. Let’s apply a little perspective:

  1. The pessimistic scenario isn’t all that pessimistic One downbeat economist quoted by the Times predicted that housing will rise at the rate of inflation for the foreseeable future. The rate of inflation happens to be roughly the long-term return on residential real estate over the past century, according to Robert Shiller, the Yale economist and real estate historian. So the bubble of 2000 to 2006 was the anomaly, not the “grim” long-term future foreseen by the Times. (Speaking of anomalies, Shiller in this interview warns against over-reacting to the lousy housing numbers that came out this week since they were skewed by the expiration of Uncle Sam’s homebuyer’s credit.)
  2. You can still make money on a house, even if the pessimists are right. If you put 20% down on a home and it rises by the rate of inflation, your equity appreciates at five times the rate of inflation. There’s no guarantee that there will be any appreciation at all–that’s the risk–and maintenance and taxes will take away some of your return. But you don’t need a bubble to be rewarded for taking the risk.
  3. You still get plenty of value from owning a home, even if you don’t make a killing. As my colleague Charlie Farrell points out, paying down a mortgage allows you to accelerate your single biggest housing expense into your peak earning years when you can best afford it. Once you’ve paid it off-at retirement, presumably-you’ve significantly pared your living expenses. And as my colleague Linda Stern points out, you also get a place to call your own for all that time-which is really the point, after all.
  4. If history is any guide, the Times story is a buy signal. These are the kinds of stories that tend to appear on front pages at market bottoms. Yes, the weak economy is keeping home buyers off the market. Yes, foreclosures are clogging the market, and smart people like Barry Ritholtz believe that homes have further to fall. There are dozens of reasons no one will ever buy a home again. But that’s how it always looks at a bottom.
  5. At some price, people will still buy. A house in a reasonably viable neighborhood is not an AIG bond or a share of Lehman Brothers. It has an intrinsic value. People need somewhere to live, and prices have been falling faster than rents. The National Association of Home Builders Affordability Index is near record levels. The CoreLogic home price to rental ratio, which compares prices and rents, shows that the rents and ownership costs are coming back into line, even if they’re not historically cheap yet. But at some price, a home becomes so attractive compared to renting that it becomes foolish not to buy. That price may not be what you hoped. It may well be even lower than today’s price. But your home’s price now is far closer today to that intrinsic value than it was in 2007. Why wasn’t theTimes calling the housing market dead then?



Jumbo Mortgage Rates Continue to Fall, by Rosemary Rugnetta, Freerateupdate.com

Just as conforming mortgage rates continue to be unpredictable, the same can be said for the jumbo mortgage rate market. As the housing market continues to correct itself, mortgage rates across the board continue to get lower. Purchasing and refinancing higher priced homes just got a little easier as jumbo mortgage ratescontinue to fall to record lows at 5%.

Jumbo loans are those mortgages that are above the conforming loan limit of $417,000 and are not backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. This conforming lending limit is higher in some high cost areas around the country. With jumbo loans popular in locations such as New York and California, the current low jumbo rates are making it an opportune time for many borrowers to refinance. In some areas where regular sized homes cost above $750,000, the low jumbo mortgage rate is spurring up home sales and refinances, thus bringing life to a stalled market.

Just a little over a year ago, jumbo mortgage rates were approximately 1.5% higher than today. With record low jumbo mortgage rates, many borrowers throughout the country are finding that this is the opportunity they have been waiting for to refinance from a higher interest jumbo loan. By refinancing a jumbo loan to the current lower rate, borrowers are saving hundreds of dollars each month. Most of these people will often reinvest these savings back into the economy which will help the economic recovery get off the ground. At this time, lenders are finding that the availability of money has improved while, at the same time, the price of that money has also improved. If banks continue to gain confidence with their lending in the jumbo mortgage market and do well with their returns, they may begin to ease up their lending in the remaining tighter markets.

Although jumbo mortgage rates continue to fall opening up new life to this niche housing market, qualifying still remains stricter than in the past. These large loans carry more risk to the banks than conforming loans. August 26, 2010 (FreeRateUpdate.com) – Those who wish to qualify for a jumbo loan will need excellent credit scores with the minimum score being at least 720. and sufficient income, relevant to the loan, that needs to be documented for at least 2 years. New purchases require a minimum of 20% down payment while refinances require a minimum of 20% equity in the existing home. After all of the calculations have been done, most jumbo loans require that the monthly mortgage payment not exceed more than 38% of income.

For anyone who can meet these qualifications, now is a good time to trade up to a bigger home that requires a jumbo mortgage or to refinance an existing one. By doing so, these borrowers will appreciate the savings by attaining a jumbo mortgage at such low rates for many years to come. Since no one can predict when the trend will stop and rates will start to rise, it’s time to get the process in motion as jumbo mortgage rates continue to fall and the jumbo loan business heats up.


New Low Cost Reverse Mortgage Product Coming in October says HUD, Reverse Mortgage News Daily

During a conference call with industry leaders on Thursday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said it hopes to roll out a new reverse mortgage product on Oct. 4, 2010.

The new “HECM Saver” will be a low cost reverse mortgage product insured by the Federal Housing Administration.  Unlike the standard HECM, which has a 2% upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP), the HECM Saver lowers the cost of entry for borrowers by charging only 0.01% upfront MIP.  The product will also have an annual MIP of 1.25%.

Offered as both a fixed and adjustable rate, the HECM Saver will have principal limit factors roughly 11-23% lower than the standard product.  While it doesn’t provide as much in proceeds to borrowers, it’s designed as low cost alternative to a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

During the call, HUD described the HECM Saver as “merely a different pricing option,” noting the rest of the product will remain the same as the HECM standard.  However, many in the industry see it as a big opportunity to broaden the appeal of reverse mortgages by offering a low cost product to consumers.

HUD said a Mortgagee Letter describing the HECM Saver should be out before September 14th.


Redefault Rates Improve for Recent Loan Modifications, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, csbs.org


State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group August 2010

Memorandum on Loan Modification Performance

Introduction and Summary of Key Findings For over two years, the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group,

Our data indicate that some recent loan modifications are performing better than loan modifications made earlier in the mortgage crisis. Loans modified in 2009 are 40 to 50 percent (40% – 50%) less likely to be seriously delinquent six months after modification than loans modified at the same time in 2008. This improvement in loan modification performance suggests that dire predictions of high redefault rates may not come true. This positive trend suggests that increased use of modifications resulting in significant payment reduction has succeeded in creating more sustainable loan modifications.

In addition, recent modifications that significantly reduce the principal balance of the loan have a lower rate of redefault compared to loan modifications overall. The State Working Group believes that servicers should strategically increase their use of principal reduction modifications to maximize prospects for success. Only one in five loan modifications reduce the loan amount; in fact, the vast majority of loan modifications actually increase the loan amount by adding servicing charges and late payments to the loan balance.

Finally, while loan modifications have consistently increased over time, the numbers of foreclosures continue to outpace loan modifications. Nearly three years into the foreclosure crisis, we find that more than 60% of homeowners with serious delinquent loans are still not involved in any loss mitigation activity. Furthermore, with the significant overhang of seriously delinquent loans, the State Working Group anticipates hundreds of thousands of foreclosures will occur later this year absent additional improvements in foreclosure prevention efforts.

1 has collected delinquency and loss mitigation data from most of the largest servicers of subprime mortgages in the country. This memorandum looks at trends in loan modifications of nine non-bank mortgage companies servicing 4.6 million loans across the country as of March 2010. 


This memorandum analyzes data submitted by nine servicers providing longitudinal data on loan modification performance. Since the inception of monthly data collection in October 2007, these nine servicers have completed over 2.3 million foreclosures as compared to 760,000 loan modifications. As of March 31, 2010, these servicers report 778,000 borrowers seriously delinquent (60+ days late on mortgage payments).

Impact of HAMP Program on Loss Mitigation Pipeline

As shown in Chart 1, permanent loan modifications dipped in the Spring and Summer of 2009 as servicers transitioned to the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The HAMP program requires a three month trial period. Accordingly, loans that would have been modified immediately in the middle of last year were instead placed into trial repayment plans, which should have become permanent after three months of successful payments from homeowners. For a variety of reasons, servicers have struggled to transition trial plans into permanent loan modifications. As shown in Chart 2 below, it appears that servicers have begun to work through the backlog of trial plans needing conversion to permanent modifications, but servicers’ conversion ratio is still far short of pre-HAMP levels.

Despite the increase in trial modifications, more than six out of ten (62.5%) seriously delinquent borrowers were not involved in any form of loss mitigation efforts. The biggest failure of foreclosure prevention efforts continues to be the inability to engage homeowners in meaningful loss mitigation efforts in the first instance. Beyond the usual factors driving borrower non-response, some reasons for the low involvement of struggling homeowners include mixed messages communicated to struggling homeowners regarding foreclosure and loss mitigation opportunities, a lack of transparency in loss mitigation options and process, inconsistent and confusing information provided to homeowners during the process, poor customer service delivery, and long delays in the modification process.

Type of Modification

The vast majority of loan modifications now involve some reduction in the homeowner’s monthly payment. Of loan modifications tracked by the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group in the first quarter of 2010, 89.3% involved some reduction in payments, including 77.6% that significantly decreased payments (i.e. decreased by more than 10%). This data is consistent with data for the large national banks covered by the OCC and OTS mortgage metrics report.

While payment reduction is now commonplace, the State Working Group remains concerned over the absence of loan modifications significantly reducing outstanding loan balances. In the first quarter of 2010, only 13.7% of all modifications reported to the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group involved principal reductions greater than 10%; in fact, 70.4% of loan modifications

increased the unpaid principal balance.3 With home price declines of 30% since 20064 and almost 25% of all homeowners with a mortgage owing more than their home is worth,5 the failure to meaningfully reduce principal limits the success of current foreclosure prevention efforts. The HAMP program has recently introduced a principal reduction alternative to its standard waterfall to give servicers the option of prioritizing the reduction of principal; however, we believe the optional nature of this alternative and its inapplicability to GSE loans will likely significantly limit its impact in the HAMP program.


A loan modification does not guarantee that a borrower will be able to remain current on the mortgage. Even the best-designed loan modification has some risk of redefault; however, a loan modification that fails to address the borrower’s repayment ability and the factors underlying the default may set the homeowner up for failure. Redefault expectations are incorporated into the servicer’s decision whether or not to even offer a loan modification to a struggling homeowner. Therefore, loan modification performance is very important both for the long-run efficacy of the program as well as a factor in determining the universe of eligible borrowers. Some analysts have predicted redefault rates of 65% to 75%.


6 The State Working Group is more optimistic. The reason for our optimism is that loans modified in 2009 are performing substantially better than those modified in 2008, as shown by Chart 4 on the next page.


7 For example, 30.8% of loans modified between August and September in 2008 were seriously delinquent after 6 months, but only 15.3% of loans modified in August and September of 2009 were seriously delinquent after 6 months.8 That amounts to a 50% reduction in the redefault rate.9 The OTS and OCC report a similar reduction. In recent mortgage metrics reports, the OCC and OTS report that 48.1% of loans modified in the third quarter of 2008 were 60 or more days delinquent 6 months after modification,10 but that redefault rate fell by more than 40 percent (to 27.7%) for loans modified in the third quarter of 2009.11

A comparison of five reporting servicers


12 demonstrates how the improvement in redefault rate is evident even when controlling for the type of loan modification. For instance, the redefault rate at six months for loans with significant payment reductions fell from almost 31.4% for loans modified in August to September of 2008 to just 11.8% for loans modified in August to September of 2009, a more than 62% reduction. Similarly, the redefault rate for loans with significant principal reductions fell from 35.4% to 12.9%, over a 63% reduction. While there is understandable fear that loan modification programs may be overused and that they may become less effective in the effort to reach the maximum number of borrowers, our research suggest that servicers’ loss mitigation offers are becoming more successful for those borrowers that are able to secure a loan modification.


While servicer performance is still short of what is needed and the HAMP program has not been a silver bullet, we find that there has been some improvement in foreclosure prevention efforts.

Loan modifications have increased, significant payment reduction is the norm, and loan modification performance is improving. The improved performance of recent vintages of loan modifications validates the policy of offering sustainable loan modifications. We encourage servicers and the Treasury Department to monitor this trend and to adjust redefault expectations in their models as evidence permits. If experience reflects lower redefaults than anticipated, revised adjustments will enable the HAMP and non-HAMP loan modification programs to reach more struggling homeowners.

Despite the progress noted in this memorandum, the number of seriously delinquent loans moving toward foreclosure remains at near all-time highs. As servicers pass through the initial wave of successful HAMP-eligible borrowers, the State Working Group is concerned that many of the currently delinquent loans will accelerate into foreclosure in the second half of the year. The State Working Group believes that unnecessary foreclosures will occur without further efforts and resources of servicers to reach homeowners, and, where appropriate, to offer loan modifications with significant principal reduction. These unnecessary foreclosures will be a needless drag on the recovery of the housing market and will continue to delay a broader economic recovery.



 1. The State Working Group is more fully described in our first report from February 2008, available at: http://www.csbs.org/regulatory/Documents/SFPWG/DataReportFeb2008.pdf. The State Working Group currently consists of representatives of the Attorneys General of 12 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington), three state bank regulators (Maryland, New York and North Carolina), and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. Data analysis and graphs for this memorandum were prepared by Center for Community Capital, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

2. For the first quarter of 2010, the OCC/OTS reports that over 87% of all loan modifications involve a payment reduction, with 72% reducing payment by more than 10%.


See OCC and OTS Mortgage Metrics Report, First Quarter 2010 (Jun 2010) at p. 33, available at: http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/release/2010-69a.pdf.




This is generally consistent with results from the OCC/OTS metrics report. The OCC and OTS report that only 2% of modifications in the fourth quarter of 2009 involved principal reduction, while 82% included the capitalization of missed payments and fees, thereby increasing the amount owed. See OCC and OTS Mortgage Metric Report, infra note 2, at p. 26. The State Working Group notes with some surprise the decline in the percentage of loan modifications with principal reduction for the large national banks and thrifts between 4th quarter 2009 and 1st quarter 2010 (from 7% in 4Q 2009 to 2% 1Q 2010).



The S&P/Case-Shiller National House Price Index fell 32% from its peak in the second quarter of 2006. See S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: 2009, A Year In Review (January 2010).



First American CoreLogic estimates that more than 11.3 million, or 24%, of all residential properties with mortgages, were underwater at the end of 2009. See Media Alert: Underwater Mortgages On the Rise According to First American CoreLogic Q4 2009 Negative Equity Data (February 2010), available at: http://www.loanperformance.com/infocenter/library/Q4_2009_Negative_Equity_Final.pdf


U.S. RMBS Servicers’ Loss Mitigation and Modification Efforts Update II, Fitch Ratings (Jun 16, 2010)

7 For purposes of this memorandum, redefault is defined as 60+ days late or foreclosed.

8 Due to limited data availability, August and September are the only months for which we have overlapping redefault rates specifically for 6 months after origination; however, a decline is evident with other cohorts. For example, the redefault rate at 9 months for loans modified in May and June fell from 37.4% in 2008 to 26.7% in 2009, a 29% reduction.

9 The decline in default rate has been broadly consistent across all nine servicers. The range of redefault rates six month after modification was 17-46% for loans modified in August and September of 2008 and only 10-25% for those modified at the same time in 2009.


OCC and OTS Mortgage Metrics Report, Fourth Quarter 2009 (Mar 2010) at p. 34, available at: http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/release/2010-36a.pdf.


OCC and OTS Mortgage Metrics Report, infra note 2 at p. 36. 12 Note that the redefault rates of loan modifications with payment and principal reductions are based on the 5 (out of the 9 total) servicers who provided performance data on all types of modifications. The overall redefault rate for loans modified in August and September by these 5 servicers was 32.3% in 2008 and 15.2% in 2009.


Conference of State Bank Supervisors