Credit score gaps narrow for FHA loans: Quality Mortgage Services, by Jason Philyaw, Housingwire.com


The credit score gap for 2010 loans through the Federal Housing Administration fell 43 points from 2006 levels, according to Quality Mortgage Services.

The mortgage quality-control services firm said its data show the average credit score of FHA loans ranked as excellent in 2006 was 665 whereas the average score of a loan ranked fair was 603 for a gap of 62 points. For FHA loans originated so far this year, the firm’s data show excellent loans have average credit scores of 707 while fair loans average scores are 688 for a difference of 19 points.

“This is good news for investors because of the increase number of loans going for securitization where the borrower has a lower probability of a historical or future 90-day late credit scenario,” Quality Mortgage Services executive vice president Tommy Duncan said.

The Franklin, Tenn.-based company performs post-closing quality-control audits and tracks trends of mortgages.

“The decrease in the credit score gap shows that the FHA loan product is limiting itself to home buyers and reducing the number of applicants that would have normally qualified for a FHA loan in 2006,” Duncan said. “Also, this trend may make it more difficult to associate high-risk loans with certain credit score ranges and may place more focus on ratios. This data shows that underwriting templates have adjusted to a higher credit score standard to obtain a FHA loan and may be preventing the tradition first-time homebuyer, or low to moderate income earners, from obtaining a FHA loan.”

Write to Jason Philyaw.

Communities Get First Shot at Foreclosed Homes, By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY


Major mortgage lenders will now give state and local governments the right to buy foreclosed properties before they go on the market, giving them “a leg up” on speculators who have often thwarted local redevelopment efforts, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan announced Wednesday.

The First Look program will give communities a 48-hour heads up on foreclosed properties and the ability to buy them at a 1% discount, Donovan said. The effort is intended to help improve the $7 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program, he said.

“First Look is good for our housing market because it will bring much-needed speed” to the sale of bank-owned homes, Donovan said. Data show that vacant homes are more than three times more destructive to neighboring home values than those early in the foreclosure process.

USA TODAY reported in July that more than $1 billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds were unspent two years after Congress authorized the program. Short staffing and confusion over rules were partly to blame, but local governments also said lenders wouldn’t deal their foreclosed properties.

Often, cities can’t move as quickly as private companies in buying homes especially in highly visible areas or where they’re trying to assemble multiple properties in a land bank.

“You can’t be successful in neighborhood stabilization unless you control all the pieces on the chess board,” said Craig Nickerson, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, which runs the clearinghouse.

The participating mortgage lenders account for 75% of foreclosed homes, Donovan said. They include Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Freddie Mac.

The banks won’t offer all their foreclosures. “We’re not going to run all our inventory through this engine,” said Steven Nesmith, senior vice president of Ocwen Financial Corp. He said about 20% will be offered to governments and non-profits.

The plan might come too late to help communities involved in the first round of funding. Many have just days to write contracts or risk losing their federal funding. In all, 143 communities have less than a month to spend their federal money. If they don’t, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will freeze their unused funds as much as $354 million nationally and could take the money back.

Palm Bay, Fla., has until Friday to spend its $5.2 million, and might fall $200,000 short. “Just with our purchasing requirements, we do not move as quickly as the private sector,” said David Watkins, the city’s growth management director.

“If First Look had been available from the beginning, he said, “we might be at least three or four months ahead of where we are now.”

HUD announces new REO purchase program, Hud.gov


U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan has announced an agreement with the nation’s top mortgage lenders to offer selected state and local governments, and non-profit organizations a “first look” or right of first refusal to purchase foreclosed homes before making these properties available to private investors. The National First Look Program is a first-ever public-private partnership agreement between HUD and the National Community Stabilization Trust (Stabilization Trust). In collaboration with national servicers, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, the First Look program is intended to give communities participating in HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) a brief exclusive opportunity to purchase bank-owned properties in certain neighborhoods so these homes can either be rehabilitated, rented, resold or demolished.

“This groundbreaking agreement will help rebuild neighborhoods that have been struggling with blight and declining home values due to foreclosures,” said HUD Secretary Donovan. “Local communities will now get an exclusive option to buy foreclosed properties in targeted neighborhoods so they can turn the homes into affordable housing or, in some cases, tear them down. This agreement helps us level the playing field to give communities a better chance to stabilize these neighborhoods.”

“The Stabilization Trust is delighted to be working with HUD Secretary Donovan on the National First Look Program,” said Craig Nickerson, President of the NCST. “By serving as the operations ‘engine’ behind the First Look Program, the Stabilization Trust can facilitate the transfer of more foreclosed property for participating financial institutions to local community buyers, thereby accelerating the road to neighborhood recovery.”

HUD’s NSP grantees, which include state and local governments and non-profit organizations, often find themselves competing with private investors for real estate-owned (REO) properties, which can hinder their efforts to stabilize neighborhoods with high foreclosure activity. With today’s announcement, HUD and the Stabilization Trust, working with national servicers, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, will standardize the acquisition process for NSP grantees, giving them an exclusive option to purchase foreclosed upon homes in certain targeted neighborhoods.

The Stabilization Trust pioneered the ‘First Look’ model to create a transparent and streamlined process to facilitate the transfer of foreclosed and abandoned properties from key financial institutions to local government housing providers. First piloted in 2008, the model has gained recognition as a critical tool for positively tipping the scale in neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosures.

NSP grantees will also be aided by REOMatch, a Web-based mapping and acquisition management tool developed by the Stabilization Trust. REOMatch will assist NSP grantees easily identify REO properties and make more strategic decisions about which properties to acquire, based on real-time data on an interactive mapping platform.

The nation’s leading financial institutions are participating in the National First Look Program, representing approximately 75 percent of the REO marketplace. Participating institutions include: Bank of America, Chase, Citi, Deutsche Bank, GMAC, Nationstar Mortgage, Ocwen Financial Corporation, Saxon Mortgage Services, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

►The National First Look Program will allow NSP grantees the exclusive opportunity to purchase available REO properties located within the defined boundaries of NSP target areas. NSP grantees will be immediately notified when a property becomes available and will have 24-48 hours to express interest in pursuing a specific property. Furthermore, these institutions will provide NSP purchasers with the opportunity to purchase REO properties at a discount their appraised value, reflecting the cost savings of a quick sale. NSP grantees may acquire these properties with the assistance of NSP funds for any eligible use.

►After expressing interest in a property, the First Look Period will last approximately five to 12 business days during which the NSP Grantee will conduct inspections and establish costs to repair in anticipation of the financial institution’s price offer. In the event that no NSP grantee exercises its preference to purchase an REO property during the First Look period, the financial institution will follow its normal process to sell the home on the open market.

►Currently, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a complementary pilot program in which NSP grantees receive an exclusive option to purchase so-called ‘HUD Homes’ at a discount prior to those homes being made available to the investor community. The FHA pilot, alongside today’s agreement expands the opportunity for NSP grantees to gain access to REO properties through a national first-look standard option.

HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program was created to address the housing crisis, create jobs, and grow local economies by providing communities with the resources to purchase and rehabilitate vacant homes. NSP grants are helping state and local governments, as well as non-profit developers, acquire land and property; demolish or rehabilitate abandoned properties; and/or offer downpayment and closing cost assistance to low- to middle-income homebuyers. Grantees can also stabilize neighborhoods by creating “land banks” to assemble, temporarily manage, and dispose of foreclosed homes. To date, HUD has allocated nearly $6 billion in funding to state and local governments and non-profit housing developments. In the coming weeks, HUD will allocate an additional $1 billion in NSP funding, which was provided through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

Another Home Buyer Tax Credit?, by Diana Olick, CNBC


Just when I thought the housing market was finally being left to correct on its own, I’m starting to hear talk regarding yet another home buyer tax credit. From HUD to the hedge funds, it sounds as if it is gaining steam yet again. This one could involve not just first time/move-up buyers, but a credit for buyers purchasing foreclosed properties or short sales (when the bank allows you to buy a home for less than the value of the outstanding mortgage).

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union this weekend, didn’t rule out another tax credit. He did say it’s “too early to say,” but then added that “we’re going to be focused like a laser on where the housing market is moving going forward, and we are going to go everywhere we can to make sure this market stabilizes and recovers.”

After that several Congressional candidates in Florida threw their voices behind the possibility, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist then chimed in on the same show, saying that another tax credit, “would stimulate the economy. It would increase home sales in Florida.” He finished with: “I would absolutely encourage the president to support that because it would certainly help my fellow Floridians.”

So of course then I went the official route and followed up with a HUD spokesperson who responded:  “No news here…there are no discussions underway to revive the credit.”

Is it all political? And is another tax credit the answer?  “I don’t think it’s all political,” says housing consultant Howard Glaser. “I think they are panicked that the economy/housing got away from them.” Glaser doesn’t sound convinced the tax credit is really on the table.  “They can do a lot off budget with the GSE’s and FHA with no Congress.”

I know a lot of you out there would argue that a housing market correction, as painful as it is, is necessary for housing to truly find its footing again and recover for the long term. Another artificial stimulus could just prolong the agony and set us up for the same drop off in sales and prices that we’re seeing right now.  

But it could also move some inventory quickly. With inventories of new and existing homes dangerously high, and the shadow supply of foreclosures pushing that volume even higher, more stimulus could be a necessary evil. I liken it to what I’m doing with my lawn this week. All summer I fought the weeds, pulling them, using the organic sprays and repellents, spreading mulch to deprive them of any air.  And then I gave up.  I called the lawn service and told them to bring every chemical in their arsenal.  Shock the overgrown mess into submission once and for all, so that I can start fresh again and reseed this fall.