Five Keys to Effective Sales Leadership in a Post-Dodd-Frank World, fom Nationalmortgageprofessional.com


The Dodd-Frank Act and the Federal Reserve Board’s loan originator (LO) compensation rule, which came into effect a little over one year ago, created some serious challenges for leadership in the mortgage industry. The biggest concern we see industry leaders wrestle with now is about “shaving” or “saving” … that is, are you shaving price to save deals or are you saving profit at the expense of losing deals? And, how do you make it all work? How do you make enough revenue per loan to make a deal worth doing on $100,000 loan, without pricing yourself “out of the market” on the larger $300,000 or $400,000 loans? Can you actually “have your cake and eat it too?”

In today’s environment, sales leadership, organization and volume planning have become critical keys to success. In our work as a coaching company specific to the mortgage industry, our team deals with a wide variety of loan officers in diverse markets across the nation. We’ve seen many different pricing models emerge, and many mortgage companies are finding it more important than ever to redefine their value proposition in an effort to separate their businesses from the competition.

Here are five key strategies to help you build a profitable business in our current market, despite the limitations and challenges we face.

Step 1: Determine your monthly volume goals 
The first key is knowing where to start. The most effective sales leaders in this post-Dodd-Frank Act era have helped their LOs understand where their business is coming from, and how many loans must close each month to reach their income goals.

First, define your typical market and establish pricing based on a “per loan” revenue target that is expressed as a percentage of loan amount that equals in dollars the kind of revenue and commission you want to generate per loan. Then, determine each LO’s monthly production goal, based on how much money each LO wants to make. Have each LO work out how many loans need to close each month to reach his or her individual income goal.

Next, factor in the conversion ratios to determine how many leads they must generate to ensure they hit that goal. If your LOs don’t already know what their conversion ratios are, take a closer look at the previous year’s production numbers. Determine how many applications were taken and compare that to how many loans actually closed, this gives you a good ballpark figure to start with. But, to dial this in better for the future, start tracking these numbers to determine what the real conversion ratio is for each team member.

So, our first step is to begin with the end in mind. Help your team determine what they really want to achieve personally, and then work backwards to decide what level of activity it will take to reach that vision.

Helping your team know what your lead generation targets are on a weekly basis, is the first critical step to success in the current environment. Keep an open line of communication with your team and discuss the numbers, the pricing, and how to overcome challenges in your specific market. This will keep your team focused on proactive business development, rather than reactively “doing business by accident.”

Step 2: Define your “perfect” borrower
To win in today’s market, your LOs must exude confidence and trust in every transaction. Your pricing model should fit both your company culture and the type of borrowers you choose to work with. But you should also challenge your team to think seriously about how they can be more valuable to their customers and offer a level of service that goes well beyond the promises of great price and “world class” service offered by everyone else (whether they can really provide it or not).
For example, if you choose to work with high-end clientele, your LOs must become experts at strategies to differentiate themselves at a higher level. They need to be able to efficiently offer a more in-depth consideration of the long term financial impact of the mortgage choices they make in real long term dollars.

And, since the LO compensation rules mandate that we cannot lower our price on any one specific deal, we need systems, tools and strategies to ensure that we can be confident in charging a higher profit—even on the larger deals—if we are going to be able to also make the smaller deals worth doing.

Knowing your market and being realistic about the type of business your team wants to attract will also enable your team to focus their energy and efforts on the production, and not the difficulties.
This focus and consistent attention to production activity is a critical element in establishing an effective sales process.

Step 3: Define your value proposition 
In the post-Dodd-Frank world, it has become more critical than ever for sales teams and leaders to focus on differentiation strategies and value propositions, and how to make sure those value propositions are understood by the consumer consistently. The team that truly understands the company’s value proposition will clearly and consistently articulate this value to the consumer.
Mortgage advisors who reinforce the company’s value proposition—while they are in the process of helping the client set up their loan structure—are winning hands down.

Sales teams that spend a significant amount of time and energy drilling, practicing and learning the art of communicating a stronger value proposition are able to focus on the long-term benefits of the choices that a borrower makes when setting up the mortgage. By focusing on the client’s long-term financial growth and overall net worth down the road, and then dollarizing that value difference to the consumer will offset the few dollars or cents a month in interest rate or upfront closing costs offered by a slightly lower priced competitor.

Though you may occasionally lose the extremely high maintenance, hardcore rate shopper, in the long run, your LOs will see a significant increase in their conversion ratio and corresponding income.

Step 4: Focus on growth
No single LO can win a market. It takes a whole team working together under a common brand identity to build a solid reputation. Working together, over an extended period of time, on what makes your company uniquely more valuable to the customer will make your company the dominant force in your marketplace.

To get your entire team dialed in and really working as a team, you must encourage collaboration. Schedule meetings on a regular basis to brainstorm ideas, discuss the company’s branding strategy, and leverage the unique talents and strengths of your team. This consideration includes advertising, attending trade shows, an Internet presence, social media activity, e-mail campaigns, direct mail, and traditional person-to-person marketing and referral partner development.

For example, if you have an LO with a strong marketing background and a passion for direct mail marketing, encourage that LO to use those skills to benefit the entire team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a different LO has the natural charisma and passion for meeting new people, encourage that LO to attend as many networking events and trade shows as possible, to attract new clients and at the same time connect the entire team and company to the community in a very visible way.

As a team, discuss how to establish referral networks, what’s working and what are the best practices in your marketplace. Explore what opportunities you have as a team to reach a wider audience and leverage existing relationships into to multiple opportunities.
A well-oiled, well-orchestrated sales team that sees the benefit of idea sharing profits tenfold what one individual can create. But, it is critical to steer the team away from internal competition and backstabbing that can very quickly kill morale.

It’s important for the sales manager to be fair in these open forums. It’s natural to have one or two LOs who stand out from the rest. Help the ambitious, goal-oriented members of your team to direct that energy in a positive way towards helping the weaker members of the team. Help them understand that the greater goal is to strengthen the team’s presence in your market by sharing their insight and wisdom. The reputation and the strength of the team as a whole is how market share is captured.

Step 5: Establish effective accountability and performance management
A big part of accountability and performance management is tracking. The law of the Hawthorne Effect tells us that what gets measured gets done. Compare it to tracking your diet and your sugar intake. If a doctor gives a diabetic an effective tool to track sugar levels and eating habits, the disease may be managed. But, when the patient forgets to keep track of dietary intake, the sugar levels can spiral out of control fairly quickly and with dire consequences.

The same goes for performance tracking. But, much more than the traditional “call report,” an effective performance tracking tool should help your loan originators sustain the volume of activity necessary to ensure they hit their desired closing numbers. Your tracking tool should also help each LO recognize what efforts are successfully working and which ones aren’t, and track the source of the lead and the specific obstacles faced in trying to capture that lead.

It should make clear which lead sources are providing a 20 percent conversion rate versus an 80 percent conversion rate. This enables the LO to adjust time and energy spent on various work efforts, and adjust strategies to reach significantly higher volume levels in dramatically less time by focusing on high pay-off activities.

So, can a leader be made, or are the leaders of the world simply unique individuals who come with the right set of personality and experience? Certainly, personality traits and skills are required to be an effective leader, but, in life, there are very few “natural born” leaders in existence. They are almost always created through the crucible of effective training, practice and experiential learning. If you are a sales leader, a sales manager, or the owner of a company, I encourage you to implement these five keys to effective leadership in your business.

Erik Janeczko is the head coach and chief business development strategist for Maximum Acceleration, a coaching system designed to help loan originators build their businesses by implementing proven core strategies. NationalMortgageProfessional.com readers can download Erik’s free goal planning and performance tracking tools at www.maccelcoach.com/plantools. He may be reached by phone at (573) 298-4237, ext. 101 or e-mail erik@maccelcoach.com.

Has Housing Really Bottomed? Oftwominds.com


Massive intervention by Federal agencies and the Federal Reserve have kept the market from discovering price and the risk premium in real estate. That sets up a “catch the falling knife” possibility for impatient real estate investors.

 

A substantial percentage of many households’ net worth is comprised of the equity in their home. With the beating home prices have taken since 2007, existing and soon-to-be homeowners are keen to know: Are prices stabilizing? Will they begin to recover from here? Or is the “knife” still falling?

To understand where housing prices are headed, we need to understand what drives them in the first place: policy, perception, and price discovery.

In my December 2011 look at housing, I examined systemic factors such as employment and demographics that represent ongoing structural impediments to the much-awaited recovery in housing valuations and sales. This time around, we’re going to consider policy factors that influence the housing market.

Yesterday while standing in line at our credit union I overheard another customer at a teller’s window request that her $100,000 Certificate of Deposit (CD) be withdrawn and placed in her checking account because, she said, “I’m not earning anything.” The woman was middle-aged and dressed for work in a professional white- collar environment — a typical member, perhaps, of the vanishing middle class.

Sadly, she is doing exactly what Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve policies are intended to push people into doing: abandoning capital accumulation (savings) in favor of consumption or trying for a higher yield in risk assets such as stocks and real estate.

It may strike younger readers as unbelievable that a few decades ago, in the low-inflation 1960s, savings accounts earned a government-stipulated minimum yield of 5.25%, regardless of where the Fed Funds Rate might be. Capital accumulation was widely understood to be the bedrock of household financial security and the source of productive lending, whether for 30-year home mortgages or loans taken on to expand an enterprise.

How times — and the US economy — have changed.

Now the explicit policy of the nation’s private central bank (the Federal Reserve) and the federal government’s myriad housing and mortgage agencies is to punish saving with essentially negative returns in favor of blatant speculation with borrowed money. Official inflation is around 3% and savings accounts earn less than 0.1%, leaving savers with a net loss of about 3% every year.  Even worse — if that is possible — these same agencies have extended housing lenders trillions of dollars in bailouts, backstops and guarantees, creating institutionalized moral hazard on an unprecedented scale.

Recall that moral hazard simply means that the relationship between risk and return and has been severed, so risk can be taken in near-infinite amounts with the assurance that if that risk blows up, the gains remain in the hands of the speculator. Another way of describing this policy of government bailouts is “profits are private but losses are socialized.” That is, any profits earned from risky speculation are the speculator’s to keep, while all the losses are transferred to the public.

While the housing bubble was most certainly based on a credit bubble enabled by lax oversight and fraudulent practices, the aftermath can be fairly summarized as institutionalizing moral hazard.

Policy as Behavior Modification and Perception Management

Quasi-official pronouncements by Fed Board members suggest that the Fed’s stated policy of punishing savers with a zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP) is outwardly designed to lower the cost of refinancing mortgages and buying a house. The first is supposed to free up cash that households can then spend on consumption, thereby boosting the economy. With savings earning a negative yield, consuming more becomes a tangibly attractive alternative. (How keeping the factories in Asia humming will boost the American economy is left unstated.)

This near-complete destruction of investment income from household savings yields a rather poor return. Plausible estimates of the total gain that could be reaped by widespread refinancing hover around $40 billion a year, which is not much in a $15 trillion economy.

There are real-world limits on this policy as well. Since the Fed can’t actually force lenders to refinance underwater mortgages, millions of homeowners are unable to take advantage of lower rates. From the point of view of lenders, declining household incomes and mortgages that exceed the home value (so-called negative equity) have lowered the creditworthiness of many homeowners.

As a result, the stated Fed policy goal of lowering mortgage payments to boost consumer spending has met with limited success. Somewhat ironically, the mortgage industry’s well-known woes — extended time-frames for involuntary foreclosure, lenders’ hesitancy to concede to short sales (where the house is sold for less than the mortgage and the lender absorbs a loss), and strategic/voluntary defaults — may be putting an estimated $80 billion in “free cash” that once went to mortgages into defaulting consumer’s hands.

The failure of the Fed’s policies to increase household’s surplus income via ZIRP leads us to the second implicit goal, lowering the cost of home ownership via super-low mortgage rates, which serves both as behavior modification and perception management. If low-interest rate mortgages and subsidized Federal programs that offer low down payments drop the price of home ownership below that of renting an equivalent house, then there is a substantial financial incentive to buy rather than rent.

The implicit goal is to shape a general perception that the bottom is in, and it’s now safe to buy housing.

First-time home buying programs and FHA (Federal Housing Authority) and VA (Veterans Administration) loans all offer very low down-payment options to qualified buyers. This extends a form of moral hazard to buyers as well as lenders: If a buyer need only scrape up $2,000 to buy a house, their losses are limited should they default to this same modest sum. Meanwhile, lenders working under the guarantee of FHA- and VA-backed loans are also insured against losses.

The Fed’s desire to boost home sales by any means available is transparent. By boosting home sales, it hopes to stem the decline of house valuations and thus stop the hemorrhaging of bank losses from writing down impaired loan portfolios, and also stabilize remaining home equity for households, which has shrunk to a meager 38% of housing value.

As many have noted, given that about 30% of all homes are owned free and clear, the amount of equity residing in the 70% of homes with a mortgage may well be in the single digits. (Data on actual equity remaining in mortgaged homes is not readily available, and would be subject to wide differences of opinion on actual market valuations.)

Broadly speaking, housing as the bedrock of middle class financial security has been either destroyed (no equity) or severely impaired (limited equity).  The oversupply of homes on the market and in the “shadow inventory” of defaulted/foreclosed homes awaiting auction has also impaired the ability of homeowners to sell their property; in this sense, any remaining equity is trapped, as selling is difficult and equity extraction via HELOCs (home equity lines of credit) has, for all intents and purposes, vanished.

The Fed’s strategy, in conjunction with the government-owned and -operated mortgage agencies that own or guarantee the majority of mortgages in the US (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, and the VA), is to stabilize the housing market through subsidizing the cost of mortgage borrowing by shifting hundreds of billions of dollars out of savers’ earnings with ZIRP.

Since roughly 60% of households either already own a home or are ensnared in the default/foreclosure process, then the pool of buyers boils down to two classes: buyers who would be marginal if not for government subsidies and super-low mortgage rates, and investors seeking some sort of return above that of US Treasury bonds. The Fed has handed investors two choices to risk a return above inflation: equities (the stock market) or real estate. Given the uneven track record of stocks since the 2009 meltdown, it is not much of a surprise that investors large and small have been seeking “deals” in real estate as a way to earn a return.

Recent data from the National Association of Realtors concludes that cash buyers (a proxy for investors) accounted for 31% of homes sold in December 2011. Even in the pricey San Francisco Bay Area, where median prices are still in the $350,000 range, investors accounted for 27% of all sales. Absentee buyers (again, a proxy for investors) paid a median price of around $225,000, substantially lower than the general median price.

This data suggests that “bargain” properties are being snapped up for cash, either as rental properties or in hopes of “flipping” for a profit after some modest cleanup and repair.

Price and Risk Premium Discovery

There is one lingering problem with the Fed and the federal housing agencies’ concerted campaigns to punish capital accumulation, push investors into equities or real estate, and subsidize marginal buyers to boost sales at current valuations. The market cannot “discover” price or establish a risk premium when the government and its proxies are, in essence, the market.

By some accounts, literally 99% of all mortgages in the U.S. are government-issued or -guaranteed. If any other sector was so completely owned by the federal government, most people would concede that it was a socialized industry. Yet we in the US maintain the fiction of a “free market” in mortgages and housing.

To establish a truly free and transparent market for mortgages and housing, we would have to end all federal subsidies and guarantees/backstops, and restore the market as sole arbiter of interest rates — i.e., remove that control from the Federal Reserve.

Everyone with a stake in the current market fears such a return to an open market because it is likely that prices would plummet once government subsidies, guarantees, and incentives were removed. Yet without such an open market, buyers can never be certain that price and risk have truly been discovered. Buyers in today’s market may feel that the government has removed all risk from buying, but they might find that they “caught the falling knife;” that is, bought into a false bottom in a market that has yet to reach transparent price discovery.

So, the key question still remains for anyone who owns a home or is looking to soon own one…how close are we to the bottom in housing prices?

In Part II: Determining the Housing Bottom for Your Local Market, we tackle that question head-on. Because local dynamics inevitably play such a large role in determining fair pricing for any given market, instead of giving a simple forecast, we instead offer a portfolio of tools and other resources for analyzing home values on a local basis. Our goal is to empower readers to calculate an informed estimate of “fair value” for their own markets — and then see how closely current local real estate prices fit (or deviate) from it.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access).

This article was originally published on chrismartenson.com.

New Real Estate Loan Tax Hitting Market Now, by Brett Reichel, Brettreichel.com


To pay for a two month extension in the payroll tax, Congress (both sides of the aisle), and the President have decided to tax real estate loans for the next ten years. This was voted in recently, and will now start affecting real estate transactions.

It’s not been publicized as a tax because it’s been identified as an increase in the agency’s “Guarantee Fee”. But the money does not go to the agency’s, it goes directly to the US Treasury. The fee is only 10bps(bps stands for “basis points” which means 1/100th of a percent, or .1%). But, when market factors come into play(like lock term, etc.), it will be more. The largest US mortgage lender said recently that some programs will be affected as much as 80 bps.

This will not be an additional fee on the Good Faith Estimate, but will be factored into pricing. Industry estimates conclude that the typical borrower will pay approximately $4,000 more during the life of their loan.

Let’s face it, this is a tax. A couple interesting thoughts come to mind when considering this new tax.

First, since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now a funding source for the US budget this works against the goal of both parties to “wind them down”, or eliminate them and replace them with private funding sources.

Second, for those of you who will immediately jump on this as “liberal” spending….the “conservatives” were also in favor of this new tax, despite their signing of the “no new taxes” pledge.

Third, housing has led the economy out of recession historically. Housing is still hurting nationally. The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low to stimulate the economy and just last week wrote a letter to Congress expressing the importance of housing in revitalizing the economy. It makes you wonder why all these “job creators” in Washington, D.C. are for this tax that will serve as an additional barrier to stimulating housing and create jobs.

It would appear that the Nation’s leaders have other priorities. What they are, who knows

 

 

Brett Reichel
Brettreichel.com

 

There Is No Bubble and Even if There Is It’s Not a Problem, by Economist’s View Blog


The big story today seems to be the Fed’s comments about the housing bubble in transcripts from their meetings in 2006. The transcripts show what we already knew, that the Fed was never fully convinced there was a housing bubble, and asserted that even if there was the dmage could be contained — they could easily clean up after it pops without the economy suffering too much damage:

Greenspan image tarnished by newly released documents, by Zachary A. Goldfarb, Washington Post: The leaders of the Federal Reserve went around the room saluting Alan Greenspan during his last major meeting as chairman of the central bank Jan. 31, 2006. …

Some six years later, Greenspan’s record — sterling when he left the central bank after 18 years — looks much more mixed. Many economists and analysts say a range of Fed policies contributed to the financial crisis and resulting recession. These included keeping interest rates low for an extended period, failing to take action to stem the bubble in housing prices and inadequate oversight of financial firms.

The Thursday release of transcripts of Fed meetings in 2006 shows that top leaders of the Fed — several of whom continue to hold key positions today — had a limited awareness of the gravity of the threat that the weakness in the housing market posed to the rest of the economy. And they had what turned out to be an excessive optimism about how well things would turn out. …

A Fed economist reported in a 2006 meeting that “we have not seen — and don’t expect — a broad deterioration in mortgage credit quality.” That turned out to be incorrect.

 

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/

 

Why Isn’t The Unemployment Crisis a National Emergency?, Economist’s View Blog


Even though the president has pivoted “from deficit reduction to job creation,” and even though job creation was the theme of the weekly address Obama gave today, I can’t say I’m any more encouraged about the prospects for a significant job creation package than I was when I wrote this.]

Labor markets are in terrible shape. Fourteen million people are unemployed, long-term unemployment remains near record highs, the ratio of job seekers to job openings is 4.3 to 1, and the employment to population ratio has dropped precipitously. Even if the economy grows at a robust average of 3.5% beginning in 2013, labor markets won’t fully recover until 2017. And if average growth is only 3.0% – well within the range of possibility – it will take until 2020. In short, labor markets are in crisis and the longer the crisis persists, the more permanent and growth-inhibiting the damage becomes.

So it was welcome news to see President Obama pivot from deficit reduction to job creation in his widely anticipated speech last week. The president proposed a combination of spending and tax reduction policies, and he surprised many people with the boldness of his proposals and his passion and commitment to the issue. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to do much to help with the unemployment problem.

There plenty of time to provide help, the dismal prospects for recovery detailed above make that clear. So the time it takes to implement job creation policies – the objection that there are not enough shovel ready projects – is not the issue. And while concerns over the deficit are valid for the long-run, they shouldn’t prevent us from doing more to help the jobless. The long-run debt problem is predominantly a health care cost problem, and whether or not we help the jobless doesn’t much change the magnitude of the long-run problem we face.

The problem is the political atmosphere. Republicans may go along with doing just enough to look cooperative rather than obstructionist, but no more than that and the policies that emerge are unlikely to be enough to make a substantial difference in the unemployment problem. It won’t be anywhere near the $445 billion program the president has called for, which itself is short of what is needed to really make a difference.

I don’t expect we’ll get much more help from the Fed either. There is quite a bit of disagreement among monetary policymakers over whether further easing would do more harm than good, and inflation hawks are standing in the way of those who want to aggressively attack the unemployment problem. As with Congress, the Fed is likely to adopt a compromise position and do the minimum it can while still looking as though it is trying to meet its obligation to promote full employment.

Thus, despite the President’s newfound interest in job creation, and the call from some at the Fed to treat the unemployment problem the same way they would treat elevated inflation – as though “their hair was on fire” – the actual policies that come out of Congress and the Fed are unlikely to be sufficient to make much of a dent in the problem.

It’s time for this to change. The loss of 8.75 million payroll jobs since the recession began should be a national emergency. But it’s not, and the question is why. Why has deficit reduction taken precedence over job creation? Why is our political system broken to the extent that a whole segment of the population is not being adequately represented in Congress?

That brings me to an important difference between the response to this recession and the policies that followed the Great Depression. Many of the policies that were enacted during and after the Great Depression not only addressed economic problems, they also directly or indirectly reduced the ability of special interests to capture the political process. Polices that imposed regulations on the financial sector, broke up monopolies, reduced inequality through highly progressive taxes, accorded new powers to unions, and so on shifted the balance of power toward the typical household.

But since the 1970s many of these changes have been reversed. Inequality has reverted to levels unseen since the Gilded Age, monopoly power has increased, financial regulation has waned, union power has been lost, and much of the disgust with the political process revolves around the feeling that politicians have lost touch with the interests of the working class. And it would be hard to disagree with that sentiment.

We need a serious discussion of this issue, followed by changes that shift political power toward the working class, but who will start the conversation? Congress has no interest in doing so, things are quite lucrative as they are. Unions used to have a voice, but they have been all but eliminated as a political force. The press could serve as the gatekeeper, but too many outlets are controlled by the very interests that the press needs to take on and this gives them the ability to cloud most any issue. Presidential leadership could make a difference, and Obama’s election brought hope for change, but this president does not seem inclined to take a strong stand on behalf of the working class despite the surprising boldness of his job creation speech.

Another option is that the working class itself will say enough is enough and demand change. There was a time when I would have scoffed at the idea of a mass revolt against entrenched political interests and the incivility that comes with it. We aren’t there yet – there’s still time for change – but the signs of unrest are growing and if we continue along a two-tiered path that ignores the needs of such a large proportion of society, it can no longer be ruled out.

Promoting Housing Recovery Parts 1 and 2, by Patrick Pulatie


Previously, I have posted articles regarding housing and foreclosure issues. The purpose was to begin a dialogue on the steps to be taken to alleviate the foreclosure crisis, and to promote housing recovery.   Now, we need to explore how to restart lending in the private sector.  This will be a three part article, with parts I and II herein, and III in the next post.

To begin, we must understand how we got to the point of where we are today, and whereby housing became so critical a factor in the economy. (This is only an overview. I leave it to the historians to fill in all the details.)

Part One – Agreeing On The Problems

Historical Backdrop

At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. population stood about 76,000,000 people. By the end of 2000, the population was over 310 million. The unprecedented growth in population resulted in the housing industry and related services becoming one of several major engines of wealth creation during the 20th century.

During the Depression, large numbers of farm and home foreclosures were occurring. The government began to get involved in housing to stop foreclosures and stimulate housing growth. This resulted in the creation of an FHA/Fannie Mae– like program, to support housing.

WWII led to major structural changes in the U.S., both economically and culturally. Manufacturing and technological changes spurred economic growth. Women entered the work force in huge numbers. Returning veterans came back from the war desiring to leave the rural areas, begin families, and enter the civilian workforce. The result was the baby boom generation and its coming influence.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, the US dominated the world economically. Real income growth was occurring for all households. Homeownership was obtainable for ever increasing numbers of people. Consumerism was rampant.

To support homeownership, the government created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so that more people could partake in the American Dream. These entities would eventually become the primary source of mortgages in the U.S. F&F changed the way mortgages were funded, and changed the terms of mortgages, so that 30 year mortgages became the common type of loan, instead of 5 to 15 year mortgages.

Storm clouds were beginning to appear on the horizon at the same time. Japan, Korea, Germany, and other countries had now come out of their post war depressions. Manufacturing and industrial bases had been rebuilt. These countries now posed an economic threat to the U.S. by offering improved products, cheaper labor costs, and innovation. By the end of the 1970s, for many reasons, US manufacturing was decreasing, and service related industries were gaining importance.

In the 1980s and 1990s, manufacturing began to decline in the U.S. Service Industries were now becoming a major force in the economy. With the end of the Cold War in 1989, defense spending began to decline dramatically, further depressing the economy.

In the early 1990s, F&F engaged in efforts to increase their share of the mortgage market. They freely admitted wanting to control the housing market, and took steps to do so, undermining lenders and competition, and any attempts to regulate them.

In 1994, homeownership rates were at 64% in the US. President Clinton, along with Congress and in conjunction with Fannie and Freddie, came out with a new program with the intent to promote a 70% homeownership rate. This program was promoted even though economists generally considered 64% to be the maximum amount of homeownership that an economy could readily support. Above 64%, people would be 

“buying” homes, but without having the financial capabilities to repay a loan. The program focused upon low income persons and minorities. The result was greater demand for housing and homeownership, and housing values began to increase.

Lenders and Wall Street were being pushed out of the housing market by F&F, and had to find new markets to serve. F&F did not want to service the new markets being created by the government homeownership programs. The result was that Wall Street would naturally gravitate to that market, which was generally subprime, and also to the jumbo market, which F&F could not serve due to loan amount restrictions. This was the true beginning of securitized loan products.

The events of 9/11 would ultimately stoke the fires of home ownership even further. 9/11 occurred as the US was coming out of a significant recession, and to keep the country from sliding back into recession, the Fed lowered interest rates and kept them artificially low until 2003. Wall Street, recognizing the promise of good financial returns from securitized loans, freed up more and more capital for banks and mortgage bankers to lend. This led to even greater demand for homes and mortgages.

To meet the increased demand, home construction exploded. Ancillary services did well also, from infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads, building materials, and home decor. The economy was booming, even though this was “mal-investment” of resources. (Currently, as a result of this activity, there are estimated to be from 2m to 3.5m in excess housing units, with approximately 400k being added yearly to housing stock.)

It did not stop there. Buyers, in their increasing zeal, were bidding for homes, increasing the price of homes in many states by 50 to 100,000 dollars more than what was reasonable. The perception was that if they did not buy now, then they could never buy. Additionally, investors began to purchase multiple properties, hoping to create a home rental empire. This led to unsustainable home values.

Concurrently, the Fed was still engaged in a loose money policy. This pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the housing economy, with predictable results. With increasing home values, homeowners could refinance their homes, often multiple times over, pulling cash out and keeping the economy pumped up artificially. A homeowner could pull out 50,000 to 100,000 dollars or more, often every year or two, and use that money to indulge themselves, pretending they had a higher standard of living than what existed. The government knew that this was not a reasonable practice, but indulged in it anyway, so as to keep up an appearance of a healthy economy. Of course, this only compounded the problem.

The end result of the past 40 years of government intervention (and popular support for that intervention) has been a housing market that is currently overbuilt and still overvalued. In the meantime, real wages have not increased since the mid 1990s and for large numbers of the population, negative income growth has been experienced. Today, all segments of the population, homeowners especially so, are saddled with significant mortgage debt, consumer debt, and revolving credit debt. This has led to an inability on the part of the population to buy homes or other products. Until wage and debt issues are resolved, employment increases, and housing prices have returned to more reasonable values, there can be no housing recovery.

Current Status

As all know, the current status of housing in the US is like a ship dead in the water, with no ability to steer except to roll with the waves. A recap:

Private securitization once accounted for over 25% of all mortgage loans. These efforts are currently nonexistent except for one entity, Redwood Trust, which has issued one securitized offerings in 2010 and one in 2011. Other than this, Wall Street is afraid to invest in Mortgage Products (to say nothing of downstream investors).

Banks are unable to lend their own money, which represented up to 15% of all lending. Most banks are capital impaired and have liquidity issues, as well as unknown liabilities from bad loans dating to the bubble.

Additionally, banks are suffering from a lack of qualified borrowers. Either there is no equity in the home to lend on, or the borrowers don’t have the financial ability to afford the loan. Therefore, the only lending that a bank can engage in is to execute loans and sell them to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or VA and FHA. There are simply no other options available.

F&F are buying loans from the banks, but their lending standards have increased, so the loan purchases are down. F&F still distort the market because of government guarantees on their loans (now explicit instead of implicit), and they are still able to purchase loans above $700k, which was implemented in response to the housing crisis.

F&F are still having financial issues, with the government having bailed them out to the tune of $140b, with much more to come.

VA is buying loans and doing reasonably well, but they serve a tiny portion of the market.

FHA has turned into the new subprime, accepting credit challenged borrowers, and with loan to values of 95% or greater. Default rates on FHA loans are rising significantly, and will pose issues for the government when losses absorb all FHA loss reserves, which may have already happened (depending on how you look at the accounting).

The Mortgage Insurance companies are financially depressed, with PMI being forced to stop writing new policies due to loan loss reserves being depleted. Likely, they will cease business or be absorbed by another company. Other companies are believed to be similarly in trouble, though none have failed yet.

The US population is still overburdened with debt. It is believed that the household consumer debt burden is over 11%, for disposable income. This is far too high for effective purchasing of any products, especially high end. (There has been a lessening of this debt from its high of 14% in 2008, but this has primarily been the result of defaults, so most of those persons are not in a position to buy.)

Patrick Pulatie is the CEO of LFI Analytics. He can be reached at 925-522-0371, or 925-238-1221 for further information. http://www.LFI-Analytics.com, patrick@lfi-analytics.com.

RATES WAY DOWN, APPS WAY UP… THAT’S GOOD, RIGHT?, by Diane Mesgleski, Mi–Explode.com


Last week mortgage applications rose a whopping 21.7% from the previous week according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.  Great news for the industry to be sure.  Great news for the housing market?  Not so much, when you consider that the bulk of the applications are refinances, not purchases.  Refis rose 31% from the previous week, while purchases remain low. Actually they dropped a skooch.  Low purchase numbers mean continued stagnation in the housing market and continued increase in inventory as foreclosures continue to be added to the count.  Which means lower values. Kind of a vicious cycle.  Those of us in the mortgage biz were not surprised by last week’s numbers, since low rates spur refis and rising interest rates signal a purchase market.  You don’t even need to understand the reason why, you just know that is how it works. It is comforting to know that something is working the way it always has.

What is not comforting is the bewildered Fed chairman, and many baffled economists who don’t understand why the present policies are not working.  Even if rates could go lower it would not have an impact on the housing market.  There is no lack of money to lend, there is a lack of qualified borrowers.  And that situation is not improving with time, it is getting worse.   At the same time Washington is tightening their stranglehold on lenders with ever increasing regulation, then wondering why banks are not lending.  No matter what you believe should be the course, whether more regulation or less, you have to agree that government intervention has not and is not helping.

Has anybody else noticed, the only winner in this current climate are the Too Big To Fail banks?   They have plenty of cash, since they cannot lend it.  One article I read put it this way, their balance sheets are “healing”.   Sounds so soothing you almost forget to be angry.

There is one other factor in the current housing crisis worth mentioning: the lack of consumer confidence.  Nobody is going to buy a house when the prices are continuing to fall.  And even in areas where the prices are stable, people have no confidence in the economy or in Washington’s ability or willingness to fix it. They are simply afraid to make the biggest investment of their lives in this climate.   If our leaders would actually lead rather than play political games we might actually start seeing change.

But only if we give them another four years.   No wonder Ben does not think that anything will get better until 2013….now I get it.

The Fed Does It Again: $80 Billion Secretive “Bank Subsidy” Program Uncovered, Providing Bank Loans At 0.01% Interest, Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge Blog


he Fed does it again. Following consistent allegations that the Federal Reserve operates in an opaque world, whose each and every action has only had a purpose of serving its Wall Street masters, led to repeated lawsuits which went so far as to get the Chairsatan to promise he would be more transparent, Bloomberg’s Bob Ivry breaks news that between March and December 2008 the Fed operated a previously undisclosed lending program, whose terms were nothing short of a subsidy to banks. Says Ivry: “The $80 billion initiative, called single-tranche open- market operations, or ST OMO, made 28-day loans from March through December 2008, a period in which confidence in global credit markets collapsed after the Sept. 15 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Units of 20 banks were required to bid at auctions for the cash. They paid interest rates as low as 0.01 percent that December, when the Fed’s main lending facility charged 0.5 percent.” 0.01% interest is also known by one other name: “outright subsidy.” It doesn’t get any freer than that: 0.01% interest on one month cash. Just how close to a complete implosion was the financial system if 0.5% interest seemed too high? Not surprisingly, this program was widely used: “Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc each borrowed at least $30 billion in 2008 from a Federal Reserve emergency lending program whose details weren’t revealed to shareholders, members of Congress or the public…Goldman Sachs, led by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, tapped the program most in December 2008, when data on the New York Fed website show the loans were least expensive. The lowest winning bid at an ST OMO auction declined to 0.01 percent on Dec. 30, 2008, New York Fed data show. At the time, the rate charged at the discount window was 0.5 percent. “ Yes, that Goldman Sachs. The same one that perjured itself when it said before the FCIC that it only used de minimis emergency borrowings. Just how many more top secret taxpayer subsidies will emerge were being used by the Fed to keep the kleptocratic status quo in charge?
From Buisnessweek:
“This was a pure subsidy,” said Robert A. Eisenbeis, former head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and now chief monetary economist at Sarasota, Florida-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. “The Fed hasn’t been forthcoming with disclosures overall. Why should this be any different?”
Congress overlooked ST OMO when lawmakers required the central bank to publish its emergency lending data last year under the Dodd-Frank law.
“I wasn’t aware of this program until now,” said U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chaired the House Financial Services Committee in 2008 and co- authored the legislation overhauling financial regulation. The law does require the Fed to release details of any open-market operations undertaken after July 2010, after a two-year lag.
Records of the 2008 lending, released in March under court orders, show how the central bank adapted an existing tool for adjusting the U.S. money supply into an emergency source of cash. Zurich-based Credit Suisse borrowed as much as $45 billion, according to bar graphs that appear on 27 of 29,000 pages the central bank provided to media organizations that sued the Fed Board of Governors for public disclosure.
New York-based Goldman Sachs’s borrowing peaked at about $30 billion, the records show, as did the program’s loans to RBS, based in Edinburgh. Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc and UBS AG each borrowed at least $15 billion, according to the graphs, which reflect deals made by 12 of the 20 eligible banks during the last four months of 2008.
And even now, we don’t know how much these individual subsidies were:
The records don’t provide exact loan amounts for each bank. Smith, the New York Fed spokesman, would not disclose those details. Amounts cited in this article are estimates based on the graphs.

Stock up with Fresh Food that lasts with eFoodsDirect (AD)

The usual excuse is used: the purpose of the program was to prevent the Ice-6ing of shadow markets
One effect of the program was to spur trading in mortgage- backed securities, said Lou Crandall, chief U.S. economist at Jersey City, New Jersey-based Wrightson ICAP LLC, a research company specializing in Fed operations. The 20 banks — previously designated as primary dealers to trade government securities directly with the New York Fed — posted mortgage securities guaranteed by government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in exchange for the Fed’s cash.
ST OMO aimed to thaw a frozen short-term funding market and not necessarily to aid individual banks, Crandall said. Still, primary dealers earned spreads by using the program to help customers, such as hedge funds, finance their mortgage securities, he said.
One name stands out: Goldman Sachs.
The New York Fed conducted 44 ST OMO auctions, from March through December 2008, according to its website. Banks bid the interest rate they were willing to pay for the loans, which had terms of 28 days. That was an expansion of longstanding open- market operations, which offered cash for up to two weeks.
Outstanding ST OMO loans from April 2008 to January 2009 stayed at $80 billion. The average loan amount during that time was $19.4 billion, more than three times the average for the 7 1/2 years prior, according to New York Fed data. By comparison, borrowing from the Fed’s discount window, its main lending program for banks since 1914, peaked at $113.7 billion in October 2008, Fed data show.
Goldman Sachs, led by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, tapped the program most in December 2008, when data on the New York Fed website show the loans were least expensive. The lowest winning bid at an ST OMO auction declined to 0.01 percent on Dec. 30, 2008, New York Fed data show. At the time, the rate charged at the discount window was 0.5 percent.
More on Goldman:
As its ST OMO loans peaked in December 2008, Goldman Sachs’s borrowing from other Fed facilities topped out at $43.5 billion, the 15th highest peak of all banks assisted by the Fed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That month, the bank’s Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities trading unit lost $320 million, according to a May 6, 2009, regulatory filing.
The source of the data: a FOIA lawsuit, just because the plebs knowing where billions of their money goes is not really in the best interests of the lords.
The bar charts were included in the Fed’s court-ordered March 31 disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The release was mandated after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an industry group’s attempt to block it
So there it is again: a secret bailout program used to “rape” the peasantry by the entitled kleptocrats, which nobody thought would be exposed, and would allow those in control to lie blatantly to Congress. But have no fear: the wheels of justice are turning: instead of having those who rape millions under house arrest, we get the spectacle of those who allegedly rape one. The former, after all, are just a statistic.
And how long before the peasantry just snaps from the barage of endless lies?

Fannie vs. Freddie Earnings; Loan Limit Reduction Ahead; Jumbo Market Chatter; Think Tank Opinion on GSEs, by Rob Chrisman. Mortgage News Daily


Yesterday I went through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – which are now the 5 stages of buying gas.

Incidents of mortgage fraud dropped from 2009 to 2010. Either that, or incidents rose – it depends who you ask. FRAUD. Regardless, Florida took the “top” honors, followed by New York, California, New Jersey, and Maryland (No. 5).

The FDIC’s chairman Sheila Bair will indeed be stepping down when her term expires, as has previously been announced. Cake and soda pop will be served in the FDIC’s cafeteria on July 8th – no gifts please.

Fannie & Freddie recently released results that appear to point to the different focus in the past of their two companies. One reader wrote, “Freddie Mac reported its first true net profit in almost two years, earning $676 million in the first quarter and not asking the taxpayer for more money. But Fannie reported at $6.5 billion loss for the quarter, and asked Treasury for $8.5 billion in taxpayer money. From my vantage point, the difference rests in the amount of Countrywide business that Fannie bought in the past – CW was Fannie’s best customer for several years, selling Fannie a variety of A-paper, alt-A, pay option ARMs, and other products. I bet that if you take Countrywide out of the equation, Fannie would show similar results to Freddie. But last year Fannie agreed to one lump sum from BofA to settle the bulk of buyback claims – good for BofA, bad for Fannie.”

Last month the Cato Institute published its opinion of the agencies, and it is making the rounds. “Foremost among the government-sponsored enterprises’ deleterious activities was their vast direct purchases of loans that can only be characterized as subprime. Under reasonable definitions of subprime, almost 30 percent of Fannie and Freddie direct purchases could be considered subprime. The government-sponsored enterprises were also the largest single investor in subprime private label mortgage-backed securities. During the height of the housing bubble, almost 40 percent of newly issued private-label subprime securities were purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In order to protect both the taxpayer and our broader economy, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be abolished, along with other policies that transfer the risk of mortgage default from the lender to the taxpayer.”

Who is going to teach your staff about NMLS? Be sure to scroll down a little for news on NMLS and Federally regulated institutions! NMLSTraining

For any jumbo mortgage fans, here is some chatter: Jumbo

By the way, at this point the conforming loan level in the higher-priced areas will indeed drop to $625,500 from $729,750. Although it is not set in stone and could be subject to some political wrangling, few doubt that it will drop. Here is Fannie’s memo stating the loan limits Fannie along with the FHFA’s.

Aventur Partners & Aventur Mortgage Capital appear to be turning some heads in the jumbo world. Led by the former co-founder and CEO of Thornburg Mortgage (Larry Goldstone) is developing a new mortgage company specializing in jumbo lending. Past and current legal nightmares aside, Thornburg-style companies certainly have their fans in the business, and the former vice president of Thornburg, David Akre, is the serving COO at Aventur.

“Soldiers do not march in step when going across bridges because they could set up a vibration which could be sufficient to knock the bridge down.” Fortunately not every housing market moves in exactly the same direction and in the same magnitude, but Zillow posted some housing numbers that certainly would make a bridge shake a little. There seem to be dozens of house price indices, but the one from Zillow yesterday showed that home values posted the largest decline in the first quarter since late 2008. Home values fell 3% in the first quarter from the previous quarter and 1.1% in March from the previous month, and Zillow reports prices have now fallen for 57 consecutive months. Our economy needs job & housing, housing and jobs, to truly recover, and although mortgage rates continue to be low, the expiration of the housing tax credit and the continued flow of foreclosures hitting the market aren’t helping prices. Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis posted the largest declines during the first quarter of the top 25 metro areas tracked by Zillow, while Pittsburgh, Dallas and Washington posted the smallest declines.

As an interesting side note to this, housing is certainly more affordable than any time in a few decades, but credit, appraisal, and documentation standards remain tight (many would say they should, and if they were in place 5 years ago we wouldn’t have these issues). One report mentioned that the average credit score on loans backed by Fannie Mae stood at 762 in the first quarter, up from an average of 718 between 2001-2004.

Franklin American relaxed its conventional condominium guidelines to allow established condominiums with 200 units or more to be approved through DU Limited Review or CPM. FAMC also tweaked its policies for “Purchase of a short sale/foreclosure or REO – Appraisal Requirements” (added the requirement for a full appraisal if the borrower is purchasing a property sold under a short sale in addition to transactions where the borrower is purchasing a foreclosure or REO), required that utilities must be on at time of appraiser’s inspection, and revised the income documentation guidelines for borrowers employed by an interested party to require a written VOE in addition to the most recent 30 day paystub. FAMC announced the introduction of the Conforming Fixed Rate 97 product which allows loans up to 97% through DU, with certain restrictions.

GMAC Bank Correspondent Funding, echoing FHA Mortgage Letter 2011-11 on the subject of Refinance Transactions, refined its stance on the use of FHA TOTAL Scorecard to underwrite Credit Qualifying Streamlines (will continue to be eligible) and determining the mortgage basis on a Cash-out transaction when a borrower is buying out ground rent. GMAC also reminded clients that the Freddie Mac Relief Refinance Open Access product has been discontinued, and after tomorrow several of its loan program codes will no longer be available. GMACB will not purchase loans where LP feedback states Open Access.

Wells’ wholesale notified brokers about changes to its “Compensation and Anti-Steering: BYTE Fee Details Now Accepted, Compensation and Anti-Steering: Appraisal Fee Reimbursement, and Best Practices to Avoid FHA Case Number Cancellation. WF’s broker clients were also reminded not to delay in learning about the NMLS Federal Registration*, given a new address for the “Change of Servicer” notifications, updated the processing fee for Guaranteed Rural Housing loans and curing TIL material disclosure errors, and reminded of the final documentation delivery address for VA loan Guaranty Certificates and Rural Development Loan

Note Guarantees.

*Three months ago the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Farm Credit Administration, FDIC, National Credit Union Administration, OCC, and OTS announced the opening of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry for Federally Regulated originators. “All originators (company and loan level) who are federally regulated will have 180 days to complete the SAFE Act requirements and register with the federal S.A.F.E. registry. One should not delay, as at the end of July all federally regulated originators will be required to provide their NMLS Loan Originator and LO Company ID’s: FederalNMLS

Out in California, First California Mortgage is looking for someone to lead its new Multi-Family division. The person will be handling the full range of processing and monitoring activities associated with the multi-family housing program, along with cultivating new and enhancing established relationships with realtors, builders, community groups/clubs and associates resulting in new loan originations and referrals. In addition, the person will be securing new Agency lending opportunities, working primarily with Freddie and Fannie. (The complete list of duties and requirements is too lengthy for this commentary.) If you’re interested, or know someone who is, contact Shannon Thomson, Director of Human Resources, at sthomson@firstcal.net.

Parkside Lending, a west coast wholesaler, reminded its brokers that it will fund Non-owner high balance purchase loans up to 80% LTV up to $625,500 through its Freddie Mac Super Conforming product line and subject to other restrictions. Parkside also allows broker/owners to select individual compensation plans for each of their branch offices. “This means one branch could be at 1.0% monthly comp contract while another is at 1.5% monthly comp -and so on, as long as they are under separate branches as recognized by DRE.”

Wall Street continues to see good interest by investors in mortgage products, “…buying from all investor types…Japanese, Real Money and Central Banks have been the largest – the market continues to under estimate the short base…,” which is another way of saying that Central Banks and investment firms have an enormous amount of cash to be put to work. And specifically for mortgages, banks have been very large buyers of MBS (per the H8 data). Monday was very quiet, with the 10-yr yield closing at 3.14% and MBS prices a shade better/higher as there is still a flight to safety bid on continued worries about European debt issues – particularly related to Greece.

Just before the funeral services, the undertaker came up to the very elderly widow and asked, “How old was your husband?”

“98,” she replied. “Two years older than me.”

“So you’re 96,” the undertaker commented.

She responded, “Hardly worth going home, isn’t it?”

Reporters interviewing a 104-year-old woman:

“And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” the reporter asked.

She simply replied, “No peer pressure.”

I’m happy to announce that I will be writing a twice-a-month blog that you can access at the STRATMOR Group web site located at http://www.stratmorgroup.com. Each blog will address what I regard as an important topic or issue for our industry. My first blog, for example, considers the near and longer-term outlook for jumbo lending. Since you can comment on my blogs, I’m hoping each topic I address will generate a thoughtful dialogue.

Mortgage News Daily

http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com

Home Affordability Reaches Generational High, by International Business Times


If you have good credit and savings, now is a great time to buy. According to Zillow.com, “Homes are more affordable than they’ve been in the past 35 years.”

Not only have home values fallen in many key markets, making homeownership more accessible to the average buyer, interest rates are at historic lows, meaning that once a home is purchased, monthly payments are smaller than in our recent past.

Zillow notes that “today’s median home buyer can expect to pay about 17% of his monthly gross income on his mortgage, compared to a 25% average since 1975.”

In the 1980’s, when interest rates were dangerously near 20 percent, this would take up nearly 45 percent of a buyers gross monthly income. In comparison, today’s rates are an extreme bargain.

The main road block to homeownership at this time is access to credit. Although nearly one-third of all home purchases in recent months have been all-cash, that leaves the majority of the market shares requiring financing.

The tightening of lending standards in recent years, though, has been in direct response to the subprime lending trend during the housing boom.

Federal Reserve research indicates that a quarter of all mortgages in 2006 were subprime. This means that these loans were made to borrowers with credit scores below 620-660 and who were unable to put down the traditional 20 percent.

Today, buyers need credit scores in the 700s, with the higher the better. According to Zillow, “Applicants with FICO scores under 620 were virtually unable to get loans at any rate, thus being effectively excluded from the home-buying market. And those with FICO scores below 620 represent almost a third of the population.”

There has also been a return of the 20 percent downpayment. This is in your best interest, as it means savings when it comes to closing costs. “The difference between a 10% and 20% down payment means she now has to save up another $17,220 in addition to any closing costs.” (Zillow)

So, while it is more difficult for many homeowners to get into the market in today’s economy, for buyers who have good credit and adequate savings, homes may never have been more affordable.

Strategic Defaults Revisited: This Could Get Very Ugly, by Keith Jurow, Minyanville.com


In an article posted on Minyanville last September — Strategic Defaults Threaten All Major US Housing Markets — I discussed the growing threat that so-called “strategic defaults” posed to major metros which had experienced a housing bubble. With home prices showing renewed weakness again, now is a good time to revisit this important issue.

What Is Meant By Strategic Default?

According to Wikipedia, a strategic default is “the decision by a borrower to stop making payments (i.e., default) on a debt despite having the financial ability to make the payments.” This definition has become the commonly accepted view.

I define a strategic defaulter to be any borrower who goes from never having missed a payment directly into a 90-day default. A good graph which I will discuss shortly illustrates my definition.

Who Walks Away from Their Mortgage?

When home prices were rising rapidly during the bubble years of 2003-2006, it was almost inconceivable that a homeowner would voluntarily stop making payments on the mortgage and lapse into default while having the financial means to remain current on the loan.

Then something happened which changed everything. Prices in most bubble metros leveled off in early 2006 before starting to decline. With certain exceptions, home prices have been falling quite steadily since then around the country. In recent memory, this was something totally new and it has radically altered how most homeowners view their house.

In those major metros where prices soared the most during the housing bubble, homeowners who have strategically defaulted share three essential assumptions: 

  • The value of their home would not recover to their original purchase price for quite a few years.
  • They could rent a house similar to theirs for considerably less than what they were paying on the mortgage.
  • They could sock away tens of thousands of dollars by stopping mortgage payments before the lender finally got around to foreclosing.

Put yourself into the mind and shoes of an underwater homeowner who held these three assumptions. Can you see how the temptation to default might be difficult to resist?

Who Does Not Walk Away?

Most underwater homeowners continue to pay their mortgage. An article posted online in early February by USA Today discusses the dilemma faced by underwater homeowners in Merced, California, a city which has suffered one of the steepest collapses in home prices since their bubble burst in 2006.

The author cites the situation of one couple who had bought their home in 2006 for $241,000. They doubted it would bring more than $140,000 today. The husband considered the idea of looking for a better job in another state. But that meant selling the house for a huge loss or giving the house back to the bank and walking away. They refused to do that. The reason was simple in their mind. They made an agreement when they took out the mortgage.

The same explanation was given by another couple in their 50s who owe $375,000 on their loan and believe it would not sell for more than $150,000. They both work and can afford the mortgage payment. They are very attached to their home and feel a moral obligation to pay the mortgage. Yet they know that many others have walked away. Because they refuse to bail out of their loan, they concede that they are stuck and described their situation as a “bitter pill.”

Two Key Studies Show that Strategic Defaults Continue to Grow

Last year, two important studies were published which have tried to get a handle on strategic defaults. First came an April report by three Morgan Stanley analysts entitled “Understanding Strategic Defaults.”

The study analyzed 6.5 million anonymous credit reports from TransUnion’s enormous database while focusing on first lien mortgages taken out between 2004 and 2007.

The authors found that loans originated in 2007 had a significantly higher percentage of strategic defaults than those originated in 2004. The following chart clearly shows this difference.

chart

Why are the 2007 borrowers strategically defaulting much more often than the 2004 borrowers? Prices were rising rapidly in 2004 whereas they were falling in nearly all markets by 2007. So the 2007 loans were considerably more underwater than the 2004 loans.

Note also that the strategic default rate rises very sharply at higher Vantage credit scores. (Vantage scoring was developed jointly by the three credit reporting agencies and now competes with FICO scoring.)

Another chart shows us that even for loans originated in 2007, the strategic default percentage climbs with higher credit scores.

chart

Notice in this chart that although the percentage of all loans which defaulted declines as the Vantage score rises, the percentage of defaults which are strategic actually rises.

A safe conclusion to draw from these two charts is that homeowners with high credit scores have less to lose by walking away from their mortgage. The provider of these credit scores, VantageScore Solutions, has reported that the credit score of a homeowner who defaults and ends up in foreclosure falls by an average of 21%. This is probably acceptable for a borrower who can pocket perhaps $40,000 to $60,000 or more by stopping the mortgage payment.

Why Do Homeowners Strategically Default?

Is there a decisive factor that causes a strategic default? To answer this, we need to turn to the other recent study.

Last May, a very significant analysis of strategic defaults was published by the Federal Reserve Board. Entitled “The Depth of Negative Equity and Mortgage Default Decisions,” it was extremely focused in scope. The authors examined 133,000 non-prime first lien purchase mortgages originated in 2006 for single-family properties in the four bubble states where prices collapsed the most — California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. All of the mortgages provided 100% financing with no down payment.

By September 2009, an astounding 80% of all these homeowners had defaulted. Half of these defaults occurred less than 18 months from the origination date. During that time, prices had dropped by roughly 20%. By September 2009 when the study’s observation period ended, median prices had fallen by roughly another 20%.

This study really zeroes in on the impact which negative equity has on the decision to walk away from the mortgage. Take a look at this first chart which shows strategic default percentages at different stages of being underwater.

chart
Source: 2010 FRB study

Notice that the percentage of defaults which are strategic rises steadily as negative equity increases. For example, with FICO scores between 660 and 720, roughly 45% of defaults are strategic when the mortgage amount is 50% more than the value of the home. When the loan is 70% more than the house’s value, 60% of the defaults were strategic.

This last chart focuses on the impact which negative equity has on strategic defaults based upon whether or not the homeowner missed any mortgage payments prior to defaulting.

chart
Source: 2010 FRB study

This chart shows what I consider to be the best measure of strategic defaulters. It separates defaulting homeowners by whether or not they missed any mortgage payments prior to defaulting. As I see it, a homeowner who suddenly goes from never missing a mortgage payment to defaulting has made a conscious decision to default.

The chart reveals that when the mortgage exceeds the home value by 60%, roughly 55% of the defaults are considered to be strategic. For those strategic defaulters who are this far underwater, the benefits of stopping the mortgage payment outweigh the drawbacks (or “costs” as the authors portray it) enough to overcome whatever reservations they might have about walking away.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The implications of this FRB report are really grim. Keep in mind that 80% of the 133,000 no-down-payment loans examined had gone into default within three years. Clearly, homeowners with no skin in the game have little incentive to continue paying the loan when the property goes further and further underwater.

While the bulk of the zero-down-payment first liens originated in 2006 have already gone into default, there are millions of 80/20 piggy-back loans originated in 2004-2006 which have not.

We know from reports issued by LoanPerformance that roughly 33% of all the Alt A loans securitized in 2004-2006 were 80/20 no-down-payment deals. Also, more than 20% of all the subprime loans in these mortgage-backed security pools had no down payments.

Here is the most ominous statistic of them all. In my article on the looming home equity line of credit (HELOC) disaster posted here in early September (Home Equity Lines of Credit: The Next Looming Disaster?), I pointed out that there were roughly 13 million HELOCs outstanding. This HELOC madness was concentrated in California where more than 2.3 million were originated in 2005-2006 alone.

How many of these homes with HELOCs are underwater today? Roughly 98% of them, and maybe more. Equifax reported that in July 2009, the average HELOC balance nationwide for homeowners with prime first mortgages was nearly $125,000. Yet the studies which discuss how many homeowners are underwater have examined only first liens. It’s very difficult to get good data about second liens on a property.

So if you’ve read that roughly 25% of all homes with a mortgage are now underwater, forget that number. If you include all second liens, It could easily be 50%. This means that in many of those major metros that have experienced the worst price collapse, more than 50% of all mortgaged properties may be seriously underwater.

The Florida Collapse: Is This Where We Are Heading?

Nowhere is the impact of the collapse in home prices more evident than in Florida. The three counties with the highest percentage of first liens either seriously delinquent or in pre-foreclosure (default) are all located in Florida. According to CoreLogic, the worst county is Miami-Dade with an incredible 25% of all mortgages in serious distress and headed for either foreclosure or short sale.

An article posted on the Huffington Post in mid-January 2011 describes the Florida “mortgage meltdown” in grim detail. Written by Floridian Mark Sunshine, it begins by pointing out that 50% of all the residential mortgages currently sitting in private, non-GSE mortgage-backed securities (MBS) were more than 60 days delinquent — either seriously delinquent, in default, bankruptcy, or already foreclosed by the bank. I checked his source — the American Securitization Forum — and the percentage was correct.

The author then goes on to discuss a strategic default situation among his friends in Florida. One of them had purchased a condo in early 2007 for $300,000. By mid-2010, it had plunged in value to less than $100,000 and he decided to stop paying the mortgage. When he expressed his concerns about the possible consequences to his buddies — including an attorney, an accountant, and a doctor — all expressed the same advice to him. They told him to walk away from the mortgage, save his money, and prepare to move to a rental unit. To them, it seemed like a no-brainer.

The author was a little surprised that no one thought there was anything wrong with strategically defaulting. The attorney actually suggested that the defaulter file for bankruptcy to prevent the bank from going after a deficiency judgment for the remaining loan balance after the repossessed property was sold.

The conclusion expressed by the author has far-reaching implications. As he saw it, “More and more Floridians who pay their mortgage feel like chumps compared to defaulters; they turn over their disposable income to the bank and know it will take most of their lifetimes to recover.”

As prices slide to new lows in metro after metro, will this attitude toward defaulting spread from Florida to more and more of the nation? A May 2010 Money Magazine survey asked readers if they would ever consider walking away from their mortgage. The results were sobering indeed:

  • Never: 42%
  • Only if I had to: 38%
  • Yes: 16%
  • Already have: 4%

In late January of this year, a report on strategic defaults issued by the Nevada Association of Realtors seemed to confirm the findings of the two studies I’ve discussed. The telephone survey interviewed 1,000 Nevada homeowners. One question asked was this: “Some homeowners in Nevada have chosen to undergo a ‘strategic default’ and stop making mortgage payments despite having the ability to make the payments. Some refer to this as ‘walking away from a mortgage.’ Would you describe your current or recent situation as a ‘strategic default?’”

Of those surveyed, 23% said they would classify their own situation as a strategic default. Many of those surveyed said that trusted confidants had advised them that strategic default was their best option. One typical response was that the loan “was so upside down it would never have been okay.”

What seems fairly clear from this Nevada survey and the two reports I’ve reviewed is that as home values continue to decline and loan-to-value (LTV) ratios rise, the number of homeowners choosing to walk away from their mortgage obligation will relentlessly grow. That means growing trouble for nearly all major housing markets around the country.

This post originally appeared at Minyanville.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/strategic-defaults-revisited-it-could-get-very-ugly-2011-4#ixzz1KnI0npxu

QRM Rule Could Cause FHA Mortgage Share to Skyrocket, by Michael Kraus , Totalmortgage.com


Recently I’ve spent a good deal of time discussing upcoming changes to risk-retention rules regarding mortgage origination that could potentially increase the cost of mortgages for a great many people.

Under the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform, loan originators will be required to retain capital reserves equal to five percent of all but the safest mortgage loans. The safe loans that will be exempt from this risk retention are called “qualified residential mortgages” (QRMs). The definition for a QRM is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, but the expectation is that in order to be a QRM, a mortgage loan will need a 20% downpayment. This means that those that do not have a down payment of this size will be subject to increased mortgage rates to make up for the risk retention on the part of the lender. The Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the FHA, and other regulatory and governmental agencies are responsible for defining a QRM.

The rule is intended to ensure that lenders have “skin in the game”. In the past, some mortgage originators would make risky loans, and in turn bundle them into mortgage backed securities and sell them to investors, effectively passing all the risk to another party. These practices were partially to blame for the meltdown of the housing market. Theoretically, the QRM rule would end these risky lending practices.

There is an exception to the QRM rule, and that is that loans issued or guaranteed through government agencies (not Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) are to be exempt from the rule. See section 941 of Dodd-Frank, specifically (ii):

‘‘(G) provide for—‘‘(i) a total or partial exemption of any securitization, as may be appropriate in the public interest and for the protection of investors;

‘‘(ii) a total or partial exemption for the securitization of an asset issued or guaranteed by the United States, or an agency of the United States, as the Federal banking agencies and the Commission jointly determine appropriate in the public interest and for the protection of investors, except that, for purposes of this clause, the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation are not agencies of the United States;

‘‘(iii) a total or partial exemption for any assetbacked security that is a security issued or guaranteed by any State of the United States, or by any political subdivision of a State or territory, or by any public instrumentality of a State or territory that is exempt from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 by reason of section 3(a)(2) of that Act (15 U.S.C. 77c(a)(2)), or a security defined as a qualified scholarship funding bond in section 150(d)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as may be appropriate in the public interest and for the protection of investors; and

‘‘(iv) the allocation of risk retention obligations between a securitizer and an originator in the case of a securitizer that purchases assets from an originator, as the Federal banking agencies and the Commission jointly determine appropriate.

As FHA mortgages would be exempt from QRM, it is very easy to imagine a situation where FHA loan volume greatly increases as a result of the rule change. The FHA only requires a down payment of 3.5%, but I can easily picture those with less than 20 percent down opting for an FHA mortgage in order to avoid higher mortgage rates resulting from the risk-retention requirements (obviously it will depend on whether or not the increased rates cost more or less than the FHA’s up front mortgage insurance premiums, which remains to be seen).

In any case, this could put the FHA in a tough spot, as it is already undercapitalized, and was never really intended to do the volume of loans that it is doing presently. The VA and USDA could also see increased loan volume, but the increase wouldn’t be as great as with the FHA, as these loans are restricted to a smaller group of people.

New Rules for Home-Loan Brokers, by Amy Hoak, WSJ.com


New rules governing how mortgage loan officers are paid for their work in originating home loans are meant to protect consumers and make it clearer how the mortgage professional is making money off the loan.

But some in the industry say the rules are creating new problems.

The Federal Reserve’s rules are aimed at limiting predatory lending. They prohibit loan officers from being compensated based on the loan’s terms and conditions other than the loan amount. For example, a loan officer can’t earn a higher commission for selling a mortgage with a 5.25% rate versus a 5% rate, says Tom Meyer, chief executive of J.I. Kislak Mortgage, a mortgage lender based in Miami Lakes, Fla.

Mortgage brokers and loan officers are prohibited from “steering” people into mortgages based on the compensation they’d receive. Another element effectively creates a rule on who pays a mortgage broker: Either the lender pays the broker directly or the consumer does — but both can’t pay for the services.

With the new rules, “consumers shouldn’t have to worry about brokers putting their own financial interest in front of the consumer’s,” says Kathleen Keest, senior policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. Unlike some in the industry, she says she doesn’t think the rules will increase borrowers’ mortgage costs.

Some in the industry also claim that the rules’ nuances put mortgage brokers at a competitive disadvantage — giving them less flexibility on compensation than large banking institutions — and it will ultimately usher more business to larger banks.

It’s a matter that held up the implementation of the new rules, which were supposed to go into effect April 1. The U.S. Court of Appeals issued an emergency stay at the last minute, in response to requests from industry trade groups. But after additional review, the rules went into effect April 5.

“I like the idea of a level playing field. I like the intent of structuring what is realistic for a loan officer to make,” says Lisa Schreiber, executive vice president of wholesale lending at TMS Funding, based in Milford, Conn. But some elements of the new rules, she says, could end up costing consumers more. A wholesale mortgage operation provides underwriting decisions and makes funding available to mortgage brokers.

One example of how consumers might be affected: A broker will lose some flexibility in altering his or her compensation, if it’s being dictated by the lender, Ms. Schreiber says.

“Say for whatever reason — maybe you were having a hard time getting documentation and you had to wait — the loan took longer than expected. There may be costs associated with that extra time. That was usually taken care of by the broker — that broker has been able to reduce his or her compensation,” Ms. Schreiber says. “With the new regulation, you as a consumer will have to pay for any fees. The broker will legally not be able to help you pay.”

Consumer advocacy groups, however, say these rules were needed to help protect consumers from unscrupulous loan officers unfairly trying to profit from mortgage loans, Ms. Keest says. It’s a practice that played a role in the mortgage mess that rocked the country, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

“The new rules should mean that [the mortgage process is] more competitive, more transparent and should mean, overall, that it won’t be more costly for the simple reason that more transparency and lack of conflict of interest should mean it’s less costly,” Ms. Keest says.

Cameron Findlay, chief economist for LendingTree, an online marketplace that connects consumers with lenders, says compensation issues didn’t create the mortgage crisis.

“The crisis was created not by the origination of loans but the creation of loan types and securitization and sale of those structures to investors. Compensation was fuel on the fire, but did not create the fire,” he says.

Consumers in the market for a loan need to be extra vigilant about comparison shopping in the weeks ahead — making sure that what they’re being quoted and offered is competitive, Mr. Meyer says.

“In the short term, [the rules are] going to be so novel and so uncertain there may be a short-term cost to the borrowers,” he says. “I expect this is going to be a fluid environment in the next couple of months, with confusion about what is permissible and what is not.”

But this isn’t the only change the mortgage industry faces in the near future.

A proposal presented by federal regulators in March laid out a way to require banks to retain more “skin in the game,” or financial capital, when packaging and selling mortgage loans — a move to prevent some of the lending problems that arose and led to a meltdown in the credit markets. Also this year, there was a proposal on the future of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two government-sponsored enterprises currently under government conservatorship.

Both proposals, if and when they come to pass, may affect consumers, industry experts say. And one result may be that mortgages get more expensive.

Write to Amy Hoak at amy.hoak@dowjones.com

Broker Compensation Rule Delay Not Good for Business, by Michael Dolan, Broker Pro Mortgage


Some mortgage brokers were happy Friday that a law suit against a Federal Reserve rule, scheduled to take effect that day, had been stayed 5 days. I wasn’t. The rule controlled how to price mortgages. Here’s what I posted on a major mortgage broker discussion site (It got noticed):

This stay is terrible news for our industry because it further delays necessary clean up. I agree the new compensation rule itself is counterproductive and redundant.

But that’s not our biggest problem. The first problem is that exploitive and greedy hiring practices caused the need for government intervention. Too many broker companies treat employed LOs [Loan Originators] like crap: no training, no decent pay schedule. This exploitation in turn pressured LOs into decisions that were not in the interest of homeowners.

Second, our industry representation is ineffective and even embarrassing. Suing is the tactic of those who do not understand how the system works and cannot produce effective compromise. Industry leaders have responded like children who have lost a candy bar. They go to Washington, DC and are not professional enough to wear a suit and tie. They don’t even realize they are announcing to the world they are untutored rubes. Then we hear nutty over-statements like “we have the best lawyers in the country.” It wasn’t until about the last month they realized that complaining about their jobs is bad politics. So – too late – they began to contend the new compensation rule was bad for homeowners but never really made a compelling argument.

Today’s result: confusion. You know what, the rule is bad. But it’s not that tough to figure out. “Oh my God! How can an industry survive if you have to pay branch managers a salary?” Complaining about how the rule hurts your business makes you seem greedy and self centered. Look around. Who agrees with industry groups? Who is with us? Nobody!

After five losing seasons, you fire the coach. The current professional organizations and the people running them need to step aside and make way for educated professionals who can work with regulators, build coalitions, and explain what we are doing for homeowners.

Michael Dolan
BrokerPro Mortgage, LLC
1001 SW 5th Ave #1100
Portland, OR 97204

503-895-5428 (NEW)

425-998-0191
800-843-9010
mobile: 503-287-4876

http://www.BrokerProMortgage.com

License # 114972

LO Compensation Guidance Gets 11th Hour Treatment by Federal Reserve, by Nationalmortgageprofessional.com


The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has announced the release of its “Compliance Guide to Small Entities” regarding Regulation Z: Loan Originator Compensation and Steering. The Compliance Guide summarizes and explains rules adopted by the Board, but is not a substitute for the final rule itself, which will be enforced come April 1, 2011. Regulation Z; Docket No. R-1366, Truth-in-Lending was originally published in the Federal Register on Sept. 24, 2010, and as mandated by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Section 212(a) (3), an agency is required to publish a compliance guide on the same date as the date of publication of the final rule (in this case, Sept. 24, 2010), or as soon as possible after that date and no later than the date on which the requirements of the rule become effective (April 1, 2011). 

The rule prohibits a loan originator from steering a consumer to enter into a loan that provides the loan originator with greater compensation, as compared to other transactions the loan originator offered or could have offered to the consumer, unless the loan is in the consumer’s interest.

The “Compliance Guide” states that “the regulation applies to all persons who originate loans, including mortgage brokers and their employees, as well as (as defined by the Federal Reserve) mortgage loan officers employed by depository institutions and other lenders. The rule does not apply to payments received by a creditor when selling the loan to a secondary market investor. When a mortgage brokerage firm originates a loan, it is not exempt under the final rule unless it is also a creditor that funds the loan from its own resources, such as its own line of credit.”

According to the Compliance Guide: “To be within the safe harbor, the loan originator must obtain loan options from a significant number of the creditors with which the originator regularly does business. The loan originator can present fewer than three loans and satisfy the safe harbor, if the loan(s) presented to the consumer otherwise meet the criteria in the rule.”

“The National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) believes that this does not satisfy the requirement as written,” said NAMB Government Affairs Committee Chair Michael Anderson, CRMS. “NAMB is reviewing the Compliance Guide and will taking appropriate action.” 

Click here to view “Compliance Guide to Small Entities” regarding Regulation Z: Loan Originator Compensation and Steering.