Government Officials Weigh New Refi Program, Carrie Bay, DSNEWS.com


Word on the street is that the Obama administration is sizing up a new program to shore up and stimulate the housing market by providing millions of homeowners with new, lower interest, lower payment mortgage loans.  According to multiple media outlets, the initiative would allow borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Macto refinance at today’s near record-low interest rates, close to the 4 percent mark, even if they are in negative equity or have bad marks on their credit.

The plan, first reported by the New York Times, may not be seen as a win-win by everyone. The Times says it could face stiff opposition from the GSEs’ regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as well as private investors who hold bonds made up of loans backed by the two mortgage giants.

The paper says refinancing could save homeowners $85 billion a year. It would also reach some homeowners who are struggling with underwater mortgages, which can disqualify a borrower from a traditional refinance, and those who fail to meet all the credit criteria for a refinance as a result of tough times brought on by the economic downturn.

Administration officials have not confirmed that a new refi program is in the works, but have said they are weighing several proposals to provide support to the still-ailing housing market and reach a greater number of distressed homeowners.

According to information sourced by Bloomberg, Fannie and Freddie guarantee nearly $2.4 trillion in mortgages that carry interest rates above the 4 percent threshold.

The details that have been reported on the make-up of the refi proposal mirror recommendations put forth by two Columbia business professors, Chris Mayer and R. Glenn Hubbard.

They’ve outlined the same type of policy-driven refi boom in a whitepaper that calls for Fannie- and Freddie-owned mortgages to be refinanced with an interest rate of around 4 percent.

They say not only would it provide mortgage relief to some 30 million homeowners – to the tune of an average reduction in monthly payments of $350 — but it would yield about $118 billion in extra cash being pumped into the economy.

Other ideas for housing stimulus are also being considered. One involving a public-private collaboration to get distressed properties off the market and turn them into rental homes has progressed to the point that officials issued a formal notice earlier this month requesting recommendations from private investors, industry stakeholders, and community organizations on how best to manage the disposition of government-owned REOs.

Treasury is also reviewing a proposal from American Home Mortgage Servicing that would provide for a short sale of mortgage notes from mortgage-backed securities (MBS) trusts to new investors as a means of facilitating principal reduction modifications.

There’s speculation that President Obama will make a big housing-related announcement in the weeks ahead as part of a larger economic plan.

Pre-Foreclosure Short Sales Jump 19% in Second Quarter by Carrie Bay, DSNEWS.com


An example of a real estate owned property in ...

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Short sales shot up 19 percent between the first and second quarters, with 102,407 transactions completed during the April-to-June period, according to RealtyTrac.  Over the same timeframe, a total of 162,680 bank-owned REO homes sold to third parties, virtually unchanged from the first quarter.

RealtyTrac’s study also found that the average time to complete a short sale is down, while the time it takes to sell an REO has increased.

Pre-foreclosure short sales took an average of 245 days to sell after receiving the initial foreclosure notice during the second quarter, RealtyTrac says. That’s down from an average of 256 days in the first quarter and follows three straight quarters in which the sales cycle has increased.

REOs that sold in the second quarter took an average of 178 days to sell after the foreclosure process was completed, which itself has been lengthening across the country. The REO sales cycle in Q2 increased slightly from 176 days in the first quarter, and is up from 164 days in the second quarter of 2010.

Discounts on both short sales and REOs increased last quarter, according to RealtyTrac’s study, but homes sold pre-foreclosure carried less of a markdown when compared to non-distressed homes.

Sales of homes in default or scheduled for auction prior to the completion of foreclosure had an average sales price nationwide of $192,129, a discount of 21 percent below the average sales price of non-foreclosure homes. The short sale price-cut is up from a 17 percent discount in the previous quarter and a 14 percent discount in the second quarter of 2010.

Nationally, REOs had an average sales price of $145,211, a discount of nearly 40 percent below the average sales price of non-distressed homes. The REO discount was 36 percent in the previous quarter and 34 percent in the second quarter of 2010.

Commenting on the latest short sale stats in particular, James Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s CEO, said, “The jump in pre-foreclosure sales volume coupled with bigger discounts…and a shorter average time to sell…all point to a housing market that is starting to focus on more efficiently clearing distressed inventory through more streamlined short sales.”

Saccacio says short sales “give lenders the opportunity to more pre-emptively purge non-performing loans from their portfolios and avoid the long, costly and increasingly messy process of foreclosure and the subsequent sale of an REO.”

Together, REOs and short sales accounted for 31 percent of all U.S. residential sales in the second quarter, RealtyTrac reports. That’s down from nearly 36 percent of all sales in the first quarter but up from 24 percent of all sales in the second quarter of 2010.

States with the highest percentage of foreclosure-related sales – REOs and short sales – in the second quarter include Nevada (65%), Arizona (57%), California (51%), Michigan (41%), and Georgia (38%).

States where foreclosure-related sales increased more than 30 percent between the first and second quarters include Delaware (33%), Wyoming (32%), and Iowa (30%).

 

The New Homestead Act: Update, by Dr. Ed’s Blog


President Barack Obama recently promised that he has a plan to create jobs, which will be disclosed in September, after he takes 10 days off in Martha’s Vineyard. I certainly hope he comes up with a good plan. If he needs one, how about the one that Carl Goldsmith and I proposed at the beginning of August? [1] I met with my congressman, Gary Ackerman, last Tuesday to pitch the plan. He liked it well enough to issue a press release on Wednesday of this week endorsing it and promising to introduce the “Homestead: Act 2” when Congress returns from its August recess.[2]

The Act aims to reduce the huge overhang of unsold homes by offering a matching down payment subsidy of up to $20,000 for homebuyers, who do not currently own a home, and exempting newly acquired rental properties from taxation for 10 years. The cost of these incentives would be offset by the tax revenues collected by lowering the corporate tax rate on repatriated earnings to 10%. 

Congressman Gary Ackerman is presently serving his fifteenth term in the US House of Representatives. He represents the Fifth Congressional District of New York, which encompasses parts of the New York City Borough of Queens and the North Shore of Long Island, including west and northeast Queens and northern Nassau County. Ackerman serves on the powerful Financial Services Committee, where he sits on two Subcommittees: Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit as well as Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises (of which he is the former Vice Chairman). The stock market rose sharply after March 12, 2009, when Mr. Ackerman, during a congressional hearing, leaned on Robert Herz, the head of FASB, to suspend the mark-to-market rule. FASB did so on April 2. I had brought this issue to the congressman’s attention in a meeting we had during November 2008.

 

Dr. Ed’s Blog
http://blog.yardeni.com/