Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bailouts:The Money Doesn't Come From the Moon

This is a must read article. Every bailout requires mortgaging our future deeper with the proverbial government line of credit extended by investors and savers throughout the world.
“Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money”

I am not a doom and gloom person but you should be watching the value of the US dollar and the cost of our debt over the next few years to see if the mighty American Empire is burning or dropping to an also ran status like France, Italy or Great Britain.

How High-Income Clients Can Prepare For Lending's Next Big Wave

Four times annually, the Federal Reserve surveys 84 banks around the country regarding their general lending standards.

One of the survey questions asks about current mortgage lending standards and whether it's getting harder, or easier, to get approved for a home loan.

In the most recent survey, 75 percent of the banks said they're making it harder for "prime" borrowers to get a home loan.

That means you, Mr. Lawyer. And, Dr.Doctor.

A six-figure income with A-plus credit won't get you carte blanche with the bank anymore. Lenders stopped fighting over the right to collect your interest payments months ago.

Today, they're more worried about you defaulting. Something about 250k bank and finance jobs toasted in the last year and the deep recession makes investors a little worried. No ONE is immune from the big waves sweeping over the credit markets.

The first wave of lender tightening eased into the books earlier this year. Most changes were focused on the borrower's individual credit characteristics including income, assets, and credit score.

The second wave of tightened, however, has been completely out of the mortgage applicant's hands. It's collateral -- the fancy bank term for "what your home is worth". Banks are very concerned about collateral.

Mortgage lenders read the papers, too, and they know that home values are falling or are flat in most neighborhoods. There's a recovery underway, but it's not going to be immediate.

Therefore, many banks assume that the 80 percent home loan made today will be a 85 percent home loan sometime in 2009 and having less than 20% equity in a home is not where the banks want you to be -- especially with joblessness on the rise and a loads of unanswered questions about the economy.

For homeowners with jumbo or super-jumbo mortgages, this loan-to-value change will resonate deeply. Just this morning, for example, one of the country's largest niche lenders dramatically lowered its maximum LTV ratios for prime borrowers.

Look at how it changes the borrowing landscape for a condo buyer in Chicago with strong income and excellent credit:

  • Yesterday: 20% downpayment required, second mortgage permissable for 5%

  • Today : 25-30% downpayment required, no second mortgage permissable
  • Sure we have investors willing to gamble a little and do 10-15% down but who really wants a 8% mortgage!? BTW, these are the same guys you see playing 50k a hand blackjack at the Venitian.

In other markets, where home values are more dubious, like California, downpayment requirements can be even higher.

Now, this isn't to say that prime borrowers won't get approved for home loans -- it's just meant to tell the street-level story of what's going on. There are a lot of people in cities like Chicago or Cincinnati that were first-time home buyers between 2002-2006. For those homeowners, the only mortgage approval system of which they know is one that's based on them -- their FICO, income and ability to fog a mirror.

Today, it's The Triangle + Rock Solid Appraised Value.

This is why prime borrowers are finding it harder to get a mortgage -- it doesn't matter what you look like on paper, it's what you and your home look like on paper.

The market will likely to tighten further in the near-term so the best way to prepare for is to ask good questions in advance of your actual needs. A proactive plan always works better than a reactive one.

If buying a home or refinancing one is in your plans for December 2008, or January-March 2009, reach out to your loan officer to find out how changing guidelines for prime borrowers can impact you. Especially if you're a jumbo or super-jumbo borrower. Also, we are very excited to have added a niche portfolio lender that can do a 30Y Fixed Jumbo throughout the country in the low 6% range for the solid "money good" credit client. Contact our office to check out our jumbo mortgage rates for your home purchase or refinance. As always, no pressue and no obligation beyond a short chat.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Credit Crunch: Now with Extra Crunch

Over the summer we experienced a restriction in lending guidelines that moved most jumbo mortgages to a minimum of 20% equity requirement. Now the dominoes have really started to fall and within the last week we have seen many of our investors move to a minimum of 25-30% equity either for a refinance or a purchase loan in most major markets.
Remember these are for true jumbo mortgage borrowers above the conforming loan limit with stellar credit, ample savings and substantial provable income. What's the impact? I would expect to see continued price pressure on the luxury market as buyers wake up to an even more restrictive lending environment. It will continue to tighten or rates will increase(to compensate for risk) until the loans perform and the foreclosures slow. We still have lower down payment niche programs available within various markets but we fear that major moves by national investors will force others to tighten as well in their regional market. If you are considering refinancing I especially encourage you to evaluate your options now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get out and Vote.

I am writing this on Election Day, and I have been mulling over what it must feel like to go to bed and realize that you may be the next President of the United States. Pretty cool. If you win, you get great perks: a couple of 747’s, a nice house with plenty of staff, great travel, and a huge advance on your memoirs in 4 to 8 years. Unfortunately, whoever wins today will assume office at a calamitous time, when the financial underpinnings of the world economy are terribly fragile. However, a little closer to home, the next President will also have a significant impact on the future of the real estate industry. The way he and Congress navigate the credit crisis, tax policy on capital gains, and address a crumbling infrastructure will be simultaneously precarious and vital to our nation's future. I hope we, as a people, make the right choice. After all, we deserve it after two years of listening to the longest presidential campaign in US history!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Great Housing Bubble Book

The Great Housing Bubble is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to understand why home prices fell. The writing has exceptional depth and detail, and it is presented in an engaging and easy-to-understand manner. It is destined to be the standard by which other books on the subject will be measured. It is the first book written after prices peaked, and it is the first in the genre to detail the psychological factors that are arguably more important for understanding the housing bubble. There have been a number of books written while prices were rising that used measures of price relative to historic norms and sounded the alarm of an impending market crash. Economic statistics and technical, measurable factors show what people did, but they do not explain why they did it. The Great Housing Bubble analyzes not only what happened; it explains why it happened.

The author of The Great Housing Bubble, Lawrence Roberts, works in the real estate industry, and he lives, Irvine, California, the center of both the housing bubble and the subprime universe. Irvine's residential real estate market witnessed one of the most dramatic increases in prices of any market in the United States. His unique location and his position in the industry make him uniquely qualified to discuss the housing bubble.

The Great Housing Bubble is an easy read. It was developed section by section through a series of posts on the Irvine Housing Blog. With the feedback provided by 3,000 daily proofreaders, the writing is clear, concise, and accurate. Much of the work reflects the collective wisdom of this large and diverse community. However, the book is also a fully researched and supported academic work. Statistics used in the work are cited, and conclusions are drawn from academic literature and documented in an extensive bibliography and end notes. These academic research papers are used to support the author's arguments and lift the work from a series of unsubstantiated opinions to a collective, unbiased, and widely accepted view of the housing bubble.

The Great Housing Bubble concludes with a series of recommendations for preventing future housing bubbles. There are both regulatory and market-based solutions. These include changes in standard appraisal methodology, the revamping of our current system of loan standards and documentation, and a call to regulate the sales tactics of realtors. These solutions are carefully explained, and although they would be difficult to implement politically, if these proposals were adopted, future housing bubbles would be very unlikely.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mortgage Industry will say NO more often.

In a move that will stymie thousands of would-be home buyers and homeowners, Fannie Mae announced another round of mortgage guidelines changes a few weeks ago that will have a huge impact.

Unlike past revisions in which Fannie Mae tightened debt ratio and credit scoring requirements, however, the newest underwriting updates home equity and home buyer downpayments.

This is consistent with the emerging underwriting philosophy that Collateral is King.

No home equity, no downpayment, no loan.

Effective December 13, 2008, Fannie Mae will enforce the following single-family residence restrictions:

  • Primary residence, "cash out" refinances are limited to 85% loan-to-value

  • Second home, cash out refinances are limited to 75% loan-to-value

  • Investment properties cannot be refinanced without a 25% equity position

Each bullet point represents a 5 percent tightening over the previous guidelines.

Now, to be clear, Fannie Mae isn't the only source for mortgage money. The others are comprised by the FHA, the VA, and an innumerable amount of portfolio lenders. To date, these groups have yet to announce similar loan-to-value restrictions.

But, because Fannie Mae (along with Freddie Mac) guarantees almost half of the nation's home loans, it does swing a big stick. Historically, when Fannie Mae gets tight with its money, the other groups tend to follow.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Market ShareStarting 45 days from now, qualifying for a conforming mortgage will require more home equity than at any time since 2003.

Now, there are a lot of people sitting around right now, waiting for mortgage rates to fall before buying or refinancing their home.

I'd offer a more prudent idea: Just get on with it already.

None of us can predict what where mortgage rates will go. Recession, inflation, whatever -- it's a big mystery. But, we do know with 100% certainty that guidelines will tighten effective December 13, 2008, and it will prohibit Americans from getting access to mortgages.

We know this because Fannie Mae published it on its Web site.

If you're buying a home or in need of a refinance, consider moving up your timeline. If rates fall after-the-fact, you can always try to refinance into something less expensive. But if guidelines shut you out, there's nothing you can do about in hindsight.

If you know you need a conforming mortgage or a jumbo mortgage, just take care of it. Great low rates don't mean a thing if you can't get qualified. And starting December 13, 2008, the qualifying hurdles are going to be raised.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

LIBOR: The Driver of Jumbo Rates.

With the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) at record levels, thus hurting short-term borrowing, as well as blowing up many jumbo mortgages linked to the floating rate that have begun to adjust, it's useful to remind yourself how exactly Libor works. Click image to enlarge.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

First Time Buyer Credit: Really a 0% Loan

I’ve been seeing quite a few agents and lenders using the $7,500 1st Time Buyer “Credit” in their promotional materials aimed at first time buyers. Be careful out there as many people “explaining” this “credit” to first time buyers are not including the part where it has to be repaid. The first payment of $500 begins two years after you receive the “Credit” and continues for 15 years. If you sell the property at a profit before the $7,500 is paid back, the balance is due when you sell. On the bright side, it does appear that if you do not have enough “profit” to repay the interest free loan of $7,500…it is forgiven.

Excerpted from FAQ’s On the $7,500 1st Time Buyer “Credit”:

Because the tax credit must be repaid, it operates like a zero-interest loan….The program is called a tax credit because it operates through the tax code and is administered by the IRS. Also like a tax credit, it provides a reduction in tax liability in the year it is claimed.”

“…the tax credit must be repaid. Home buyers will be required to repay the credit to the government, without interest, over 15 years or when they sell the house, if there is sufficient capital gain from the sale…if the tax credit is claimed on the 2008 tax return, a $500 payment is not due until the 2010 tax return is filed.”

“…this will maximize the stimulus for the housing market and the economy, will help stabilize home prices, and will increase home sales.”

It’s not that I’m against a stimulus package for increasing homes sales, but you have to wonder how many people see CREDIT and understand LOAN? They really should call it a $7,500 1st Time Buyer Interest Free LOAN. And for all you mortage and real estate professionals, maybe we understand why the government has to call it a TAX CREDIT, but to be sure your clients know the amount has to be repaid, you should call it an interest free loan when explaining it to your clients. As always consult a CPA or accountant for further clarification.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Financial Crisis Has Hit Main Street

Jumbo Mortgage rates moved up sharply over the past week as the credit markets ground to a halt. Borrowers with good credit and a 20% down payment today could qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 7.625% with a one-point fee. That's up from 7.25% on Friday of last week.The rate has been trending upward from 7% since the financial meltdown gained full speed in the last few weeks. Investors are pricing in the increased default risk and the national decline in home prices. No area is immune as noted by the latest Case-Shiller numbers. The move by the US government to pass the mother of all bailouts has been awaited anxiously by the entire credit industry. If you can't save housing you can't save the financial system nor the economy from a financial meltdown/great depression scenario.

However, the worst development is adjustable rates have dramatically increased. Bloomberg reports that the international rate banks charge each other for one year loans, known as the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR, moved LIBOR rates to 4.08% as markets were locked up with the meltdown in credit markets. LIBOR was in the mid to low 3% range throughout the summer. If we move to LIBOR rates of 5% range that would push ARMs to about 8%. The meltdown of household names is the best opportunity for people to refinance or purchase as investors want something safe/secure. Nothing is safer in this market than solid credit client's looking for a phenomenal jumbo mortgage rate. Now is the time to refinance as rates are likely to get worse over the next two years and guidelines to get more restrictive. The best rates in a generation are behind us as banks recapitalize and governments work to save a financial system on the edge of complete panic.

About 6 million U.S. mortgages, including almost all subprime home loans and 41 percent of prime ARMs, are linked to LIBOR, according to First American CoreLogic, Bloomberg reported.

Depending on a Bailout: Slide Show

Great slide show on making sense of the mortgage meltdown from a seminar today at the Milken Institute in Los Angeles. They always have the best and most data-rich slides, bar none. Press the easel button in the viewer to blow up it to full screen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mortgage Rates Falling

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 bill prevents the treasury from borrowing too much money too quickly -- a positive, inflation-containing provisionWith jumbo mortgage rates moving faster than anytime in recent history, let's take a few minutes to recap what's going on, and what's causing rates to be so volatile.

First, the bailout.

Late Sunday, Congress drafted the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 bill and it goes to vote sometime today. The key provision in the bill that's helping mortgage rates is on Page 110.

The passage reads, summarized:

  • The U.S. Treasury gets access to $250 billion immediately

  • The U.S. Treasury has to ask the President for its next $100 billion

  • The U.S. Treasury has to ask Congress for its next $350 billion

Because of how the bill is worded, the U.S. Treasury can't go spending taxpayer money willy-nilly, lessening the likelihood of inflation nationwide. This is good because anytime inflation pressures ease, mortgage rates stand to benefit and this is one of the catalysts for today's rate drop.

Another reason why rates are falling is death of banking giants Washington Mutual and Wachovia.

It's no coincidence that these two institutions shut down within 3 days of each other. Both were heavy pushers of the now-famous Negatively Amortizaing Mortgage, the time-bomb assets of which clogged the banks' respective balance sheets.

Consider: When Washington Mutual was rescued bought by JP Morgan Chase & Co. and the buyer devalued WAMU's portfolio by a massive $31 billion, it forced investors to reassess Wachovia's mortgage portfolio, too.

When Washington Mutual sold, Wachovia's balance sheet was transformed into a ticking time bombWithin minutes, Charlotte-based Wachovia lost a quarter of its value and was a Dead Man Walking. Then, before even a weekend could pass, Wachovia had been packaged and sold to Citigroup with the help of the U.S. government, leading to another $42 billion in mortgage portfolio writedowns.

That's $73 billion in mortgage losses practically overnight.

Surprisingly, this is good news for mortgage borrowers because each time a bank acknowledges losses like this, the mortgage market as a whole gets one step closer to discovering what an individual home loan is really worth on Wall Street.

In fact, it's this exact conundrum that defines the mortgage market domino chain, dating back to July 2007. If markets could just accurately answer "What is a mortgage worth?", this little credit mix-up thing would be over.

WAMU and Wachovia hitting the showers brings us one step closer, and at least for today, brings mortgage rates down.

(Image courtesy: The Wall Street Journal Online)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The American Empire is Burning:Pull up a chair.

Although I’m sure that, like I, many of you are not at all surprised by the extent of the financial crisis we have seen to date, I’m absolutely certain that most of you are shocked by the extent government’s response.

This decline was inevitable… it was obvious and for years many have taken to writing/blogging and debating it’s various details but could anyone have ever predicted that as a result of this ugly episode the federal government would violate our economic and social system to such an extent?

I know I didn’t… I now see that I was naive.

In anticipation of the decline I had envisioned the outcome many times… Americans tightening belts, losing their jobs and then their homes, increases in crime, a “poverty effect” that would reverse most of our gains from the nineties leaving the country trapped in a vicious-circle pushing us into a long and deep recession always teetering on the brink of depression.

Yet… I suppose I should feel foolish admitting this now… I had always expected that households and firms would be largely on their own to navigate the down-side much as they had the up-side of this historic and nearly multi-decade boom.

I say “largely” because our government has, for generations, had at its disposal many well known tools for engaging tough economic times (unemployment insurance, FDIC, fed funds rate, lender of last resort etc. etc.) and although this bout looked to be fairly severe, they seemed to me to be adequate.

Never did I EVER expect that the federal government would force American taxpayers, and their many generations of descendants, to essentially be the sole bearers of this epic catastrophe.

It doesn’t matter if you were prudent, if you planned, if you resisted reckless behavior or were even thrown to the side, unable to keep up with all the mayhem.

You will now PAY for the aftermath.

And if that’s not enough, you’re not simply being drafted to defend our social system by subsidizing the failures of all the individual ignorant greater fools… you are going to be the FINAL greater fool for the WHOLE system itself.

If congress passes the proposed legislation and the president signs it into law (as is likely), all private financial institutions, even foreign institutions will clean their balance sheets of junk mortgages, credit card debt, car loans, student loans and other nearly worthless assets on the back of your labor.

I want to repeat a point that I made in a prior post.

Many of these private institutions are THE VERY SAME that lobbied hard for sweeping new bankruptcy reforms that now make it harder than ever for individuals to seek shelter during times of personal financial hardship.

If you’re late on your credit card debt, these institutions will hammer you with fees that can, under certain circumstances, eventually exceed the debt itself… if you default they will ultimately sell that debt to a collector that will stop at NOTHING to squeeze you for every last penny.

This bailout scheme will create a massive multi-generational transfer of wealth from the many average American households and firms to the very few wealthy, elite and well connected.

Let’s remember that these actions are coming at a time when our stock markets have declined less than 25% from their prior peaks and absolutely NOT in the context of a calamitous depression.

This is an absolute disgrace and I’m convinced that no other generation before us would have ever conceived of this level of cynical tyranny.

There is no liberty… you are not free… America is truly a collapsing empire with only hollow ideals and empty slogans left to remind us of our once proud ambitions. Don't believe me? Our dollar is down 6% since last Thursday vs the EURO. That is an enormous move in the currency markets. Foreigners don't like what they see, neither should you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GOVT In Action: Jumbo Fixed Rates Drop

Mortgage rates dipped over the past few days as investors shunned stocks and purchased mortgage securities backed by the federal government and solid prime jumbo loans.
Borrowers with good credit and a 20% down payment today could qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5.50% with a one-point fee. That’s down from 6.00% on Friday of last week.
The rate has been trending downward from 6% since the government took possession of mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sept. 7. Investors now feel comfortable buying those companies’ mortgage securities, and that lowers rates to consumers. The move by the US government has had the needed impact. If you can't save housing you can't save the financial system nor the economy from a financial meltdown/great depression scenario.

However, adjustable rates have improved much more. Bloomberg reports that the international rate banks charge each other for overnight loans, known as the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR, more than doubled and then moved lower as the FED and European Central Bank moved to inject money moving rates to 2.95% as markets were spooked by the bankruptcy Monday of Lehman Brothers and the death rattle of AIG. The meltdown of household names is the best opportunity for people to refinance or purchase as investors want something safe/secure. Nothing is safer in this market than solid credit client's looking for a phenomenal jumbo mortgage rate.

About 6 million U.S. mortgages, including almost all subprime home loans and 41 percent of prime ARMs, are linked to LIBOR, according to First American CoreLogic, Bloomberg reported.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Avoiding the Jumbo Mortgage Man

How do you avoid paying jumbo mortgage rates on a jumbo-sized mortgage?

You avoid taking your mortgage to a Wall Street lender, that's how.

It's pretty simple when we break it down.

The word "jumbo" is a Wall Street-specific term for home loans larger than $417,000. In certain "high-cost" areas, the number is $729,750.

Lately, rates on jumbo mortgages have been terrible compared to its cousin, the conforming mortgage. Plus, jumbo mortgages carry higher loan fees.

The price disparity is even worse for so-called "Super Jumbo" mortgages. A super jumbo mortgage is similar to a jumbo mortgage, but bigger.

But the thing is, the terms "jumbo mortgage" and "super jumbo mortgage" -- these are conventions of a Wall Street-bound loan. Just because your loan size is over $417,000 doesn't mean that you have be subject to the jumbo and super-jumbo rules.

To avoid them, just make a choice avoid Wall Street mortgage lenders when your loan size exceeds your local conforming loan limits. This means bypassing your neighborhood Big Bank retail branches in favor of a niche banks that harbor no allegiance to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Finding banks like this isn't always easy, but it's worth the effort. This is because when a lender makes its own rules, its mortgage rates tend to be lower, its downpayment requirements tend to be smaller, and its underwriting process tends to be smoother.

These are all good things when your mortgage is greater than $417,000.

Consider these mortgage scenarios from a sampling of local banks. Each example carries a corresponding mortgage rate in the low-to-mid 6-percent range:

  • $700,000 mortgage with 20 percent down, primary residence

  • $1.5 million mortgage with 30 percent down, vacation home

  • $2.5 million mortgage with 30 percent down, primary residence

Now, compared to what Wall Street lenders are offering, not only are the small bank rates up to 2 percent lower, but they're not accompanied by discount points, either. And that's even giving Wall Street the benefit of the doubt -- most Big Bank lenders won't hardly touch a jumbo or super jumbo mortgage with a 10-foot pole anymore.

The irony here is that wealthiest Americans often have private banking relationships with firms like Chase, Bank of America, and Citi among others but their private banking relationship is ill-equipped to handle the mortgage needs of a high net worth client anymore.

Jumbo and super jumbo mortgage approvals are easier with local banks and lenders as opposed to national onesIn 2005, the banks performed admirably for their wealthy clients. Today, not so much.

So, the best way to avoid paying jumbo mortgage rates on a jumbo-sized loan is to get out from Big Bank mentality and get your mortgage funded from somewhere other than Wall Street.

Jumbo mortgage rates are expensive. Niche, local bank mortgage rates are not. If you're a jumbo homeowner and you have a local banking relationship, it may be wise to call your branch to get a better rate quote.

And, if you don't have a local bank to call, know that you can always call or email me. I lend in 42 states and have niche banking relationships in all of them. If you can't find low rates for yourself, I'm happy to find them for you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Millions of home sellers failed Econ 101?

We are going to keep this simple because millions of people must have failed Econ 101 or missed the month of supply/demand charts and it's influence on prices.

If you had a car dealership full of cars that weren't selling what do you do?Hey maybe have an enormous sale:

This is the current for sale inventory of existing single family homes in the U.S.:

from our friends at Calculated Risk.

Maybe the millions of sellers should pore a huge cup of coffee and wake up to today's market. But, who am I to judge that asking prices are too high? Maybe these sellers are aware of 5 million wealthy Asian and Arab buyers that are dying to move in and pay full sticker price. Sure and Santa Clause hangs out with the tooth fairy in the Cayman Islands during August summer break.

The way this standoff resolves itself is with declining prices to meet the available buyers or staying stuborn and waiting for the market to rise up to the current asking prices. Homes are selling every day... that are priced right. And now for a laugh from my favorite newspaper comic when I was a kid. Calvin and Hobbes.

Larger Version of comic.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Converting Your Primary to Investment Property: You may not qualify.

If it seems like mortgage rules are getting strict, that's because they are.When a homeowner buys a new home, he has 3 options of what to do with his current residence:

  1. Sell the home, paying off the mortgage in full
  2. Keep the home as a second/vacation home
  3. Convert the home to an investment property

The most common action plan is the first one -- sell the home and pay off the mortgage. However, with home prices poised to rebound, some savvy homeowners are trying to avoid "selling low".

Unfortunately -- as of August 1, 2008 -- waiting out the market won't be so easy.

Burned by foreclosures and wary of risk, Fannie Mae issued new conforming mortgage guidelines that specifically apply to home buyers planning to convert an existing primary residence into a second home or investment property.

Among the highlights of Fannie Mae's Changes:

Selling the primary residence
If the new home being purchased closes prior to the existing home's sale, both payments must be used to qualify the buyer for the new mortgage.

Converting to a second home
If the home has less than 30 percent equity in it, the home buyer must show 6 months of PITI reserves for both properties to qualify for the new mortgage.

Converting to an investment property
If the home has less than 30 percent equity, its rental income may not be used to help the buyer qualify for the new mortgage.

If it seems like mortgage rules are getting strict, that's because they are. And they're expected to get tougher, too. With each foreclosure and high-profile bank collapse, mortgage lenders tighten up their guidelines just a bit, freezing out the "fringe" borrower from access to mortgage money.

Mortgage rates may rise through 2009, or they may fall. We don't know. But what we do know is that borrowing money to buy a home will be tougher.

If you plan to buy a home in the next 12 months, consider moving up your timeframe or -- at least -- planning ahead. Guidelines for jumbo mortgage programs are likely to follow as Fannie/Freddie set the tone for the overall market. Understanding the mortgage rules and how they can change may be the difference between getting approved for a home loan, or getting turned down.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Housing and Recovery Act 2008

Various client's have discussed the housing bill signed into law two weeks ago. Below is a great summary. A few items will have a slight impact on housing. The biggest benefit is for borrowers that are in danger of foreclosing and first time home buyers. The FHA created a program which is a loan write down and shared equity participation with Uncle Sam for 50% of the future appreciation. My first economics teacher Dr.Lamb burned into our brains, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Various elements of this bill bear that out. The bill is not sexy so I had to throw in a picture of Heidi Klum to liven things up. Enjoy your weekend.-Mr.Mortgage

Key provisions of the Act include:

New agency created to regulate Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks: The Act creates a new regulatory agency, called the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to oversee and regulate Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. The agency is charged with the responsibility of monitoring the portfolio holdings of the entities it oversees and ensuring they maintain sufficient capital to operate healthy national housing finance markets.

FHA Program updated: Effective January 1, 2009, the FHA loan limit for conforming loans increases to as much as $625,500 in the most expensive U.S. markets. This affects both home equity conversion mortgages (reverse mortgages) and jumbo loans. Down payment requirements on FHA loans increase from 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

The Hope for Homeowners Program: The Act creates a new Federal Housing Authority (FHA) program designed to help borrowers in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Eligible homeowners may be able to pay off their original (foreclosing) lenders with a fixed-rate, 30-year-term mortgage for up to 90 percent of the appraised value of the property. Eligible homeowners are those who originated their loans before January 1, 2008, spend more than 31 percent of their monthly income on their mortgage, and are currently in danger of foreclosure. Borrowers would have to share future equity with the FHA. The program is completely voluntary; banks may elect not to participate. The program begins on October 1, 2008 and ends in September of 2011.

Temporary mortgage foreclosure protection for servicemembers: The Act provides mortgage foreclosure protection for members of the U.S. Armed Services by temporarily increasing (through December 31, 2008) the maximum loan guarantee for VA loans. The period a lender must wait before initiating foreclosure proceedings after a service member returns from service is extended from 90 days to 9 months. Increases in mortgage interest rates above 6 percent are suspended during the period of service and for one year after a service member ends service. This provision will sunset on January 1, 2011.

Temporary tax "credit" for first-time homebuyers: First-time homebuyers of a principal residence purchased after April 8, 2008 and before July 1, 2009 may take a refundable tax credit of 10 percent (up to a maximum of $7,500; $3,750 for married persons filing separate returns) of the purchase price of the property. The credit is phased out for individual taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) ranging from $75,000 to $95,000 ($150,000 to $170,000 if married filing jointly). However, taxpayers must repay the credit taken over 15 years in equal installments as a surcharge on their annual income tax return.

Temporary standard property tax deduction for non-itemizers: For 2008 only, taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions will be allowed to take a real property tax standard deduction (in addition to the standard deduction) of up to $1,000 if married filing jointly ($500 for all other filers).

Reduced homesale exclusion for nonqualified use: For sales and exchanges of a principal residence after December 31, 2008, the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) homesale exclusion won't apply to the extent the gain is allocated to periods (not including any period before January 1, 2009) during which the property is not used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or the taxpayer's spouse.

Temporary increase in low-income housing credit: For 2008 and 2009 only, the Act provides a 20 cent increase in the low-income housing credit per-resident cap, and increases the small state minimum by 10 percent. The technical rules relating to the credit have also been simplified.

Expansion of the rehabilitation tax credit: The Act taxpayers to qualify for the full amount of the rehabilitation credit so long as less than 50 percent (up from 35 percent) of the rehabilitated building is leased to state and local governments or other tax-exempt entities.

Repeal of AMT limitations: on tax-exempt housing bonds, low-income housing credit, and rehabilitation tax credit. Generally effective after December 31, 2007, interest on tax-exempt housing bonds are not subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and the low-income housing credit and rehabilitation tax credit can be used to offset AMT liability.

REIT modernization: The Act liberalizes the rules for real estate investment trusts (REITs) by clarifying that they can earn foreign currency income associated with real estate activities, increasing the permissible size of REIT investments in taxable REIT subsidiaries, modifying the REIT safe harbor for dealer sales, and extending the special rules for lodging facilities to health care facilities.

Election to accelerate recognition of historic AMT/R&D credits: The Act allows taxpayers to elect to accelerate the recognition of a portion of their historic AMT or research and development (R&D) credits in lieu of the bonus depreciation tax benefit allowed under the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. The amount taxpayers can receive is calculated based on the amount invested in property that would otherwise qualify for said bonus depreciation. This amount is capped at the lesser of 6 percent of historic AMT and R&D credits or $30 million.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Huge Impact on 2nd homes and Investment Properties

New conforming mortgage guidelines threaten owners of second homes and investment propertiesConforming mortgage guidelines are the Home Loan Rule Book, delineating between applicants that approved for a mortgage and those that do not.

Effective today, the rule book just got a little bit tougher.

According to Fannie Mae, homeowners converting their primary residence into a second home or investment property will be subject to additional underwriting scrutiny. Fannie Mae is leery of lending to people that may be over-extended.

The complete underwriting update is available at the Fannie Mae Web site but some of the more important points are summarized below, divided into Second Home and Investment Property.

Second Home Guideline Changes

  • Without 30 percent equity in the second home, mortgage applicants must have 6 months worth of PITI reserves for both properties in their bank accounts.

  • With 30 percent equity, the PITI reserve can be reduced to 2 months.

Previously, there was no minimum reserve requirement.

Investment Property Guideline Changes

  • With 30 percent equity in an investment property, 75% of the monthly rental income can be applied toward the applicant's monthly household income.

  • Without 30 percent equity, rental income may not be applied to the applicant's monthly household income and 6 months PITI is required for both properties.

Previously, 75% of the rental income was allowable regardless of equity, and minimum reserve requirements were 2 months.

Even though just a small percentage of Americans own second homes or investment properties, the conforming mortgage guideline changes impacts homeowners everywhere.

Changing mortgage guidelines impact the supply and demand curve for housingThis is because more restrictive guidlines lead to two separate, but concurrent, outcomes:

  1. The demand for homes reduces because fewer buyers qualify for mortgages

  2. The supply of homes increases because fewer sellers can refinance into more affordable home loan

Less demand and more supply places downward pressure on home prices.

Now, remember that mortgage guidelines continuously evolve and what's accurate as August 1, 2008, may not be accurate six months down the road. In other words, confirm what you're reading about mortgages online with your loan officer before making any real estate-related decisions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Employment rates are likely to show continued weakness, a good thing for mortgage ratesOn the wave of a two-day rally, mortgage rates improved last week overall. This despite a Friday reversal that had caused rates to tick higher just before weekend house-hunting began.
And, like so many other weeks this year, last week's mortgage market activity was defined by its quick-moving interest rates. At least one major mortgage lender issued 11 separate rates sheets between -- an average of more than 2 per day. Now, as an active mortgage rate shopper, you can't predict mortgage rate volatility but you can be prepared for it.
Start by knowing which mortgage product is the best fit for your long- and short-term financial goals and then be ready to pounce on a "good rate" because the rates expire as soon as that next rate sheet gets issued.

Another effective way to prepare for shopping is to watch for data that can influence the market's opinion of the U.S. economy. This week, there's a lot of it --starting with Tuesday's Consumer Confidence report. When confidence levels are high, economists expect Americans to spend more, propelling the economy forward towards inflation. Inflation makes mortgage rates rise.

Then, on Thursday, the Employment Cost Index data is released. This will be a closely-watched figure this month because it should show if American workers are pressuring employers for raises in light of higher gas and food prices. If wages are up, it will be considered inflationary because businesses eventually pass that cost back to consumers.

Again, bad for mortgage rates. And lastly, on Friday, the jobs report will be released. American businesses have shed jobs in each of the last 6 months, and June is expected to show the same. The jobs report's influence on mortgage rates is enormous so expect big rate swings Friday, either up or down.

Overall this week, considering the weight of the data, it may be prudent to finish-up rate shopping as soon as possible and get locked in with your lender. As the week progresses and the data's import grows, the markets should get less and less stable.
Jumbo Mortgage rates for July 29, 2008. Loan amounts up to $2,000,000:
3/1 ARM 5.875%
5/1 ARM 6.25%
7/1 ARM 6.50%
10/1 ARM 7.75%
30 Yr Fixed 7.875%
All rates offered to the borrower with 1 point cost. Rate quotes assume an owner occupied purchase transaction with a 25% down payment, 720 credit score, full income qualification and 12 months of verified reserves. Rates are subject to fluctuation. Custom jumbo loan rate quotes and rate lock advice are available by visiting

Next 7 days: Slightly Lower
Next 30 days: Flat
Next 3 months: Higher

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fannie and Freddie Baked in the Cake

Jumbo Mortgage markets have turned their attention back to the U.S. economy this morning, causing yesterday's rate improvements to unwind a bit.
Rates had fallen Monday after the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury's joint announcement in support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Today, it's the data that is taking center stage.
Most notably, the U.S. Dollar is trading at an all-time low versus the Euro and other currencies.
This is a negative for active home buyers because American homeowners repay their mortgage interest in U.S. dollars. When the dollar loses value, so does the value of those interest payments so mortgage rates end up increasing in order to attract new investors.
Another reason why mortgage rates are higher this morning is that June's Producer Price Index registered much higher than was expected, posting its largest one-month gain since November 2007.
PPI is a lot like the Cost of Living index, except that it measures operating costs for businesses instead. When business costs are increasing, they are often passed onto consumers and this is why rising PPI is thought to be inflationary and inflation -- like a weakening dollar -- pressures mortgage rates to rise.
So, while Monday's rate improvements haven't completely erased, today's action reminds us that mortgage markets wait for no one and yesterday's mortgage rates rarely carry forward.
Especially when inflation is in the mix. Did you buy bread or gas this week? I did. Inflation is alive and killing our purchasing power.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

When the Power Goes Out and Other Lessons.

In part of Los Angeles and Orange County we had a power outage that lasted about two hours this afternoon. This isn't Iraq where 40% of the time they have power failures. This is a rare event but it reminded me of the world and people we depend on to go about our daily lives.

Today's home owner or home buyer is experiencing the same level of surprise when they try to get a mortgage loan. Make no mistake about it THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM FOR OTHER PEOPLE. If you are thinking about selling, your buyer has to put 10-20% down now or take a high rate on an FHA loan with a big monthly mortgage insurance payment. It was 0% down two years ago with so-so credit. If you are thinking about refinancing now or some point when you can find the time. Do it now! If you don't have the equity or are 1 point shy on the FICO you are out of luck and stuck with your current loan.

I kid you not, it all matters. The rampant inflation has caused rates to move into the low 6% range on 5 and 7Y ARMs for the most qualified clients with plenty of equity. This is a shock to people that borrowed during the 02-05 period when rates were the lowest level in 50 years. Most of these client's are coming out of 5% rates on adjustables. These adjust against the LIBOR which is now 3.20%. Almost every Prime perfect credit ARM is 2.50% plus the LIBOR index. If you were adjusting today your rate would be 5.70%, not bad but look at this chart and do the math:
Rates move back to the 2006 or 2007 levels and you are at 7-8%+. In order to stop inflation central banks(i.e. the FED) raise rates. Don't be shocked to see HELOCs at 8% in two years and LIBOR at 6%. Why should a person put money in a CD at 3% when inflation is really 5-7%. Do you buy gas or food? Enough said. Rates will go higher to compensate.

Welcome to the new reality of a weak dollar, high inflation, and falling home values. No area in the country is immune to these forces. These winds have a dramatic impact on the loans available even to the most stellar money good borrowers. The new standard for jumbo loans is to have 20% equity minimum. This is for loans that are above the new Fannie Mae "conforming jumbo" limits which differ by area. In most high cost markets it is 729k. Do you have the equity to refinance? Are you close to not having 20% equity in your home? If not you can't refinance unless you bring a check to the table if you are in the jumbo loan market. Otherwise you can have 5-10% equity but now you have to carry mortgage insurance which can run a few hundred hard earned dollars a month.

If you want to check your home value go to or Search for a home just like yours. Find similar homes and then find the lowest priced comparable. That is the market. Banks are looking at the lowest comparable home now because it is a falling market. This is called deflation. Home values are deflating like a balloon with a hole in it.

We have seen dozens of client's this month that can't refinance because they don't have the required equity. Their next move is usually to put their home on the market or sit tight and pray to the interest rate gods that their mortgage payment doesn't adjust too high. Don't gamble with your most valuable financial asset and largest liability. Pay attention to your risks and work to get the best possible loan for your situation. If you don't work with our firm, please work with someone competent. Take care and have a great weekend. The American Dream isn't dead we are just having a nightmare scenario. It will pass.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not out of the Woods.

UCLA’s Anderson school of business reported that they see the first flicker light at the end of the housing collapse in California, citing year-over-year transaction increases in areas like Riverside (one of the hardest hit by the bubble). To me this just smacks of analysts wanting to be the first to call bottom without consideration to the underlying fundamentals of the California market.
The two most important of which are the fact that a majority of the loans in the more expensive markets were made with a combination of stated (a/k/a fake) income and exotic loan products like option arms and interest only loans that have yet to recast or adjust. How can anyone call for a bottom and say that foreclosures will ease in 2009 with a clear wave of resets looming on the horizon for 2009-2012 that are actually more severe in nature than ARM resets? That’s irresponsible.
An option ARM reset can increase the monthly payment requirement of a borrower 4-5 fold. With no equity to refinance these homes are going to go cascading in to foreclosure further hurting the market. Any one that does not take this eventuality as a serious threat to the market is just plain ignorant. It’s going to be messy.
See the graph and you tell me if we’re out of the woods yet. As an anecdotal story I had a specuvestor call my office seeking a 5% down NEGAM for a 1.4 million dollar home in Westwood that he thought was a bargain because it was reduced from 1.7 million.
It won't be done until 2012. All the 10's of billions of pick-a-pay time bomb loans haven't reset to fully amortizing yet. As a sign that it was a poisonous product WAMU(the 2nd biggest lender in this area) announced yesterday that they will no longer offer this product. Maybe the smart money crowd knows something the specuvestors don't about real estate and the $34B worth of NEGAMs WAMU has on the books. I will let these charts speak for themselves:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Buy vs Rent:Long Time Renter Takes The Plunge

From a recent client discussion:

"The case for renting has been simple enough. House prices rose so high in the first half of this decade that you could often get more for your money by renting. You could also avoid having a large part of your net worth tied up in a speculative bubble. All this time, I have been a renter myself, ... [but] the housing market has, obviously, changed quite a bit since our last move, in 2005....This month, we found a house that we really liked, and we made an offer. It was accepted.I’m still not sure how good our timing was. Based on the backlog of houses on the market, I fully expect that our new house will be worth less in six months than it is today. ...In fact, if you’re now renting - almost anywhere - and do not need to move, I’d probably recommend that you wait to buy. The market is still coming your way. But it’s O.K. with me if our timing wasn’t perfect.
Leonhardt isn't buying for appreciation, and he realizes the price will probably still decline further. He is buying because prices have fallen enough that the intangibles of homeownership (as he and his wife value them) outweigh the extra costs of owning a home compared to renting."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Chaos in Luxury Finance. The Other Shoe Has Dropped.

This week we witnessed a dramatic change within the jumbo mortgage and luxury financing space that has broad implications for housing markets across the country. It appears to have started with Wells Fargo on Monday and spread within a day to all investors whether bank, insurance, pension or hedge fund money sources. Remember we had earnings from all banks and insurance companies in the last two weeks. This allowed all market participants to peek under the hood and see that the credit engine is leaking oil.

The market above 1m had become restrictive in the last few months moving to a fully documented income, 720 minimum FICO playing field for most loan scenarios. Lending to the wealthy seemed stable. Then this weeks major crack in the 2m+ market which we specialize in, we knew another shoe had dropped in the credit meltdown. Granted 1-20m property finance is a niche within the 10 trillion dollar mortgage industry. But, the changes forecast major declines in luxury markets as this further decreases the available pool of buyers and will pressure prices.

Program loan to value limits were cut between 5-10% at most investors. We received dozens of calls from brokers, realtors, and loan officers across the country desperatly searching for 20-25% down financing for their purchases that now require 30-35% down or millions in reserves which most clients don't have. Programs are available to put 20% down on property up to 6m but they require 1-3m plus in liquid assets beyond the down payment. It will take a few weeks for this meltdown to be seen in asking prices as housing markets move VERY slowly. Not like your gas station that changes prices every afternoon right before you pull up to fill the tank on the weekend.
As proof of the credit market distress I would like you to consider the 1Y USD LIBOR chart below. This is May 1st 2007 to May 1st 2008. With hundreds of billions that the European Central Bank and FED Central Bank action in March we had a great move down in LIBOR as they flooded the market with cash in exchange for illiquid securities from banks. Now we have spiked up again and the market is saying that their is huge demand for money and supply is constrained. Lenders are afraid to lend so they are increasing the price. So econ 101 dictates prices must rise hence we have moved up about .75% in the last 30 days. Every borrowing cost is rising yet the FED just cut rates on Wednesday and the market is not responding. Remember the FED rate cuts only matters to banks who can borrow at the window or for your HELOC which is based on prime. The majority of corporate borrowing and 80-90% of adjustable rate mortgages are based on LIBOR. The LIBOR movement has a direct impact on what rate someone gets today and if someone is adjusting now they will move up or down based on LIBOR every 6 months per their jumbo loan contract.

Well another happy piece of news for folks on the sidelines waiting to buy. Enjoy your weekend and someday this meltdown will be over. Just not for several years. It took time to create the largest asset bubble in history and it will take time to deflate back to the fundamentals.

Extra reading for you credit crunch junkies:

The Fed is apparently still worried about the LIBOR, from the WSJ: Central Banks Ponder Dollar-Debt Rate
Central banks on both sides of the Atlantic are debating causes of the surge in interest rates on commercial banks' dollar-borrowing in money markets and considering what they can do about it.A major source of stress has been the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, a benchmark for the rates banks pay on dollar loans in the offshore market. It remains unusually high compared with expected Federal Reserve interest rates...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why is your jumbo mortgage more expensive now?

If you wonder why jumbo mortgage rates for all borrowers have increased in recent months at major banks it's because we are in a real deal Holyfield CREDIT CRUNCH. No fooling around, every major financial institution around the world has had to go cap in hand to shareholders or international wealth funds for money. All the money that went into bad loans needs to be replenished and the cost of capital is going up for everyone. Classic supply and demand. As a mortgage banker we saw this meltdown coming years ago and created relationships with insurance companies, pension funds and small banks in order to provide jumbo mortgage financing outside the Wall St blood bath. After you call your bank give us a call you will be impressed if you have solid credit, income and have equity in your property.
from Marketwatch
Citi originally said Tuesday that it would raise $3 billion in a stock offering, but increased that amount by $1.5 billion after demand for the new shares exceeded its original offer. The banking giant said the offering priced at $25.27 per share, with the transaction totaling more than 178 million shares.
Citi shares fell 3.5% in pre-market trading Wednesday.
Citi said that the offering of new common stock, combined with the $6 billion it raised earlier this year selling preferred shares, would have left the company with a Tier 1 capital ratio of 8.6% at the end of March.
"We were pleased to increase the offering size to $4.5 billion in response to strong demand from a broad base of investors," Citi Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden said in a statement. "This optimizes our capital structure and further strengthens our balance sheet."

Citi has lost billions of dollars as the global credit crunch hammered the value of risky mortgage-related securities and leveraged loans held by the company. It tapped former hedge-fund manager Vikram Pandit to replace Charles Prince as chief executive last year and is selling some assets and businesses to cut leverage.
Citi also got a $7.5 billion investment from Abu Dhabi in November and said in January that it was raising $14.5 billion more from Singapore, Kuwait and other governments.
Analysts reacted coolly to the newest push to raise capital, saying Wednesday before the announcement of the increased offering, that they remain concerned that Citigroup did not go far enough with its $3 billion target.
"The fact that the company raised such a small amount of capital at this time confounds us," Oppenheimer analyst Meredith Whitney wrote in a research note Wednesday. "By our estimates, we believe Citi needs to raise an additional $10-$15 billion or sell several hundreds of billions worth of assets in order to truly shore up its capital position."
She cited "seriously constrained" earnings power and pressure on four of Citi's 10 core businesses as continuing problems for the bank.
Analysts said Citi may have come under the watchful eye of ratings agencies that are worried it does not have sufficient capital to weather future market disruptions. This means the banking giant will need to increase its reserves significantly over the next few months.
"It is our belief that one or more of the rating agencies did not feel comfortable with the firm's current capital mix and that is why the company offered the $3 billion in common stock," said William Tanona, an analyst for Goldman Sachs, in a note to investors.
"If our assumption is correct, it suggests that additional capital raises will likely also be in the form of common equity, which is most dilutive to shareholders [and] conversely, we view this as a positive for debt holders," Tanona said.
Concern remains on Wall Street that the company may still have large exposure to mortgage-related securities and other vulnerable assets.
Citi reported a $5.1 billion net loss earlier in April as it wrote down the value of soured mortgage investments and other credit-related positions by roughly $12 billion.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Real Estate Supply and Demand in 8 mins.

This is an outstanding video in that it provides a basic overview of what is going on from a consumer demand perspective, it is 8 minutes long, and worth a viewing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mortgage Rates are Low But Millions Won't Qualify

The topic is a little stale and monotonous. But if you have any interest in mortgage rates or your ability to get a great mortgage loan in this credit crunch keep reading. Otherwise return to your regularly scheduled net surfing. You keep hearing (and watching) me say that mortgage rates are down, but that not everyone is eligible for the lower rates. This chart should help clarify:

To read it, just find the intersection of your credit score and loan-to-value. The number in the box is the mandatory mortgage fee that mortgage financier Fannie Mae tacks on to your closing costs.
The fee is calculated as:
(Mandatory Fee) = (Loan Size) * (Mortgage Pricing Adjustment) / 100
These added costs are making conforming remortgages cost-prohibitive for a lot of Americans.
The risk-based fees are officially called "Loan-Level Pricing Adjustments" although the abbreviated form of "LLPA" is used just as often. I tend to call them "risk-based fees" because it's easier to understand.
The fees shown above, by the way, are in addition to the universal fee of 0.25 on all home loans, regardless of credit score or LTV. That particular charge is called the "Adverse Market Delivery Charge" and went into effect in December 2007.
But the costs don't stop there. There are other more risk-based price changes for homeowners to know about. For example:
All 2-unit properties carry 0.500 in mandatory fees
All 3-4 unit properties carry 1.000 in mandatory fees
"Cash out" remortgages at all LTVs can add up to 0.500 in fees
The good news is the mandatory mortgage fees don't have to be paid at closing. Most mortgage lenders will trade 1.000 in fees for a quarter-percent increase in mortgage rate. This means that if your mortgage rate is 6.000% and your costs are 1.000, you can accept a 6.250% rate and skip the loan-level pricing adjustment in its entirety.
Wrapping the fees into the mortgage rate makes the monthly mortgage payment higher, but preserves a homeowner's liquidity and cash position.
Expect more risk-based fees throughout this year, especially for LTVs above 80 percent, and for specific property-types such as condos and multi-families. If you watch this show, you'll see the bigger picture and how we got to this place.
The piling-on of risk-based fees makes now a good time to consider buying or remortgaging a home. Changes to pricing are made without advance notice and we all get taken by surprise. Always to our detriment.
Mortgage rates may fall with the economy this year, but it won't matter if the cost of financing keeps increasing. If you're going to want a new conforming or jumbo loan later this year, talk to a mortgage banker today and get a plan started.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

One's misfortune is your gain.

This magazine arrived in the mailbox today and sums up my view of the various opportunities within markets that the upheaval and perfect storm present. Make no mistake about it this is the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The wave of bank failures has just started. The FDIC just added about 150 new staff members that are experienced in dealing with insolvent banks. Terrible news is everywhere, but the best deals are always to be had when everyone is running around losing their mind.
Deals abound:
Goldman Sachs Sold $500m worth of Chrysler Debt at 0.63 on the dollar. Remember the US government bailed out Chrysler in the 80's and made billions on the loan. Maybe this hedge fund will do the same on this loan. Time will tell.
A home builder sold improved land for 15 cents on the dollar (of builder's total costs).
Client's are buying foreclosed homes at 60% of what they sold for in 06 and in some markets 05.
These deals are done quickly. Just like the good old half-yearly at Nordstrom or the blue light special at K-Mart. You have to know the sky isn't falling, have the cash or financing in place and pull the trigger. These deals won't last.
I hear news from realtors across the country of multiple offers on homes in great areas that are priced right. Remember their is no such thing as a national market for housing. In Santa Monica, CA for example you can have a 2m home and six blocks over you have 500k fixers. Real estate is local and often block by block. The smart money is looking at this as the best of times. Sure prices in all markets can go lower but how many people have bought the bottom of any market? It is better to be a little early to the show than to be late and have missed it all together. Welcome to the FIRE SALE SHOW. Where cash is king.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lehman Loses $300 Millon on Stated Loans.

Lehman brothers has anounced today that they have lost $300 million from one borrower on their super stated income loan business.

UPDATE: Lehman Wants Repayment For Alleged Loan Scam: Reports
March 31, 2008: 12:44 AM EST

HONG KONG (Dow Jones) -- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is expected to file a lawsuit in a Tokyo court Monday seeking repayment from Marubeni Corp. of $350 million in funds its says were misappropriated in a loan fraud carried out by two former employees of the Japanese trading house, according to news reports.
Lehman last year granted loans to a fund run by a medical consulting firm owned by LTT Bio-Pharma Co. in Tokyo, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The funds were to be used for the purchase of medical equipment and were secured with certificates bearing Marubeni letterhead and a seal of a Marubeni board member, the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The New York-based investment bank later found the board member's seal was forged, the report said.
Marubeni said it is a victim of identify fraud and that the documents involved in the transaction were forged. Marubeni said in a weekend statement an internal investigation showed it had no involvement in the forgery of documents used to secure the loans and had no obligation to compensate Lehman's for its losses.
Reports said a minimum of two meetings to finalize the deal were conducted at Marubeni's Tokyo headquarters.
Lehman entered into the transaction with two Marubeni employees who were at the time senior staff with the Japanese firm's life care business. The two employees have since been sacked, although Marubeni has not said why they were terminated.
Shares of Marubeni (MARUY) were down 7% at the midday recess in Tokyo trading Monday.
A Lehman statement cited in The Journal report said the investment bank "was closely working with authorities to seek full recovery of funds it believes to have been frequently misappropriated."
The funds weren't repaid at the end of February, prompting concern at Lehman. The unit of LTT Bio-Pharma filed for bankruptcy protection on March 19.
Lehman said that it has investigated the situation and filed a criminal complaint with Japanese police.
Both companies are cooperating with Japanese authorities, the Journal reported.
Lehman Bros. (LEH) shares fell 2.2% Friday to close at $37.87.

So these are the banks that we need to bail out? Did they "lend" $300 million to a couple of Modern Day Ocean's 11 style financial heist crew? They realized there was a problem when they didn't get the payment?! Maybe they should have examined a little more than two executives and some letterhead. Mr.Mortgage's opinion regarding your tax dollars is NO BAILOUT!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Let Fear Blind You

FEAR is ruling the financial markets. Billions of dollars have been lost in mortgage-related investments. The Federal Reserve worked madly over the weekend to engineer a takeover of Bear Stearns and avert a systemic meltdown. But the big fear remains. How low will house prices go?

If prices continue to fall, mortgage defaults will move well beyond the subprime sector. Trillions of dollars in losses for investors are not impossible. But that doesn’t mean they are inevitable.
In 1997, inflation-adjusted house prices were close to their average levels over the previous half-century. Only four years later, the price of the average home nationwide exceeded anything ever seen before in the United States. Prices continued to rise for another five years, peaking in 2006 at nearly twice the average price in 1997 (as can be seen on the graph on the bottom right, which is based on data collected by the Yale economist Robert Shiller). If house prices are heading back to the levels seen in 1997, then we are facing catastrophe.

But there are good reasons to believe that much of the increase in prices was a rational response to changes in fundamental factors like interest rates and supply. The deeper fundamentals continue to suggest strong housing prices for the future.

Sure, speculation did run rampant toward the end of the housing boom. (The debut of the reality television show “Flip That House” on Discovery Home Channel, followed shortly by “Flip This House” on A&E, was a clear sign that the boom’s end was near.) Prices will fall further, especially in the speculative developments built on the outskirts of the major cities. So yes, we overshot the fundamentals.

Still, especially in coastal areas where zoning regulations have restricted the supply of land that developers can build on, house prices were driven up by increasing population, low interest rates and strong economic growth.

More and more people want to live on the coasts, but land is hard to come by in places like Manhattan and San Francisco. Cities and regions built on ideas — like Boston, Los Angeles, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area — have grown even as areas built on manufacturing, like Detroit and the Rust Belt, have declined. And of course, government isn’t getting any smaller, so Washington and its suburbs, another hot spot of rising house prices during the boom, will continue to grow.

Even in places where land seems plentiful, zoning and other land-use regulations have made it scarce. To meet demand, we should encourage high-density development, but homeowners fought to restrict housing supply when house prices were increasing. Now that house prices are falling, the incentives of owners to restrict supply are even stronger.
Several studies estimate that the average house prices of 2004 were close to fundamental levels, so we may see prices stabilize near that level. Just like any market, bargains are to be had for the careful buyer. Did you know that on days when the stock market is down, often half the stocks are up for the day? You can't paint an entire market, let alone state or city with the same brush. Pasadena Real Estate is very different than Hawthorne yet they are both in LA County. Good deals are to be had by the prudent and patient.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On FED Watch. Mortgages up or down?

Mr.Mortgage is on FED watch this morning as this may have positive or negative implications for clients. When the Federal Reserve lowers the Fed Funds Rate, mortgage rates tend to increase, and it's always for the same, few, related reasons:

Rate cuts create long-term inflation pressure. Bought gas or food lately?
Rate cuts makes the U.S. dollar weaker.
Rate cuts reflect short-term economic weakness

But rate cuts are just one way that the Federal Reserve can impact mortgage rates; there's more than one color in the Fed's crayon box, after all.
How the FOMC treats the Fed Funds Rate today is only one part of the story. The other part is what the Federal Reserve does to make mortgages feel "safe" to market investors.

One reason why mortgage rates are slightly down this past week is because the Fed has intervened with normal market activity on multiple occasions and with each intervention, the Fed is implicitly or explicitly saying, "We will not let conforming mortgage debt default."
This "guarantee" from the Federal Reserve reduces the risk of mortgage loans sold through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Lower risk = lower rates.

What the Fed says today will be as important as what the Fed does. If the press release reveals a proclivity for guaranteeing additional mortgage debt, expect mortgage rates to fall because mortgage debt will be considered "safer" for investors. The jumbo loan market will key off the conforming market.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is it a good time to buy?

For Americans wanting to buy a new home, there are always two time frames to consider:
Now and Later

It's why prospective home buyers love to ask the question: "Is now a good time to buy?" If now is not a good time, they reason, certainly later must be. Strangely, though, "Is now a good time to buy?" is a question that people ask their real estate agent but never Mr.Mortgage.

It's probably a good thing, because we have have seen a lot of changes over the last few months and we're expecting a lot more this year. But it's okay. You can ask me now: "Is now a good time to buy?"

And I answer: "Absolutely and unequivocally yes, if you have a five year time horizon."

Now is a good time to buy -- not because home prices are flat or because sellers are willing to make a deal-- but because none of us mortgage guys can predict what the mortgage market will look like "later". "Now" is full of knowns. "Later" is full of unknowns. Mortgage markets are seizing and lenders have no choice but to limit what they will lend and to whom. Stated income has largely disappeared and FICO requirements have increased dramatically in the last few weeks.

It may appear that lenders are going overboard with their restrictions but that's not the case at all. Lenders are simply more concerned about not wasting money than they are about making money. They have made far too many trips around the middle east and asia raising capital to "waste" it on a high risk borrower. Remember a loan is a earned, it isn't one of your rights below freedom of speech.

Today, a bank doesn't mind if it passes on 9 good loans in a stack of applications if it means that it also passes on the 1 bad one that's in there. Jumbo Mortgages are only a small percentage of the bank's balance sheet, but it's the uncertainty about the demand for mortgages by investors that makes them nervous. If mortgage bonds become worth less, the little guy could eventually topple the giant bank much like david vs goliath.

The first major change we expect to see is with second mortgages. Currently, 90% home equity lines of credit are available from most banks. Judging from the recent decreases of 150k Countrywide customers HELOC loan limits in CA and Chase limiting HELOCs to 80% LTV max and 65% in Las Vegas, we expect that percentage to fall to 80% or lower very soon.

The second major change we expect are more credit score-based fees. Currently, a 680 score puts mortgage applicants in the safe zone from credit-score based fees.
Expect that minimum score to raise to 720.

The third major change we expect is for the declining market designation to expand. This will force every home buyer to need an additional 5 percent (or more) of his own funds beyond what the bank's lending guidelines will allow. If you needed a 10% downpayment now, you may need a 15% downpayment later.

The fourth major change we expect is based on property type. New construction condos are in ample supply in many cities and that may create an overall weakness in pricing. If a single-family home requires a 20% downpayment, banks may protect themselves by requiring 25% downpayments on condos.

And the last major change we expect is for every mortgage product in existence to get a complete makeover. New minimum standards will apply in all categories.
It's impossible to know what these new standards will be, but expect mortgage lenders to follow their losses and trim their menus accordingly. If you find yourself in the same Risk Class as other homeowners with high default rates, expect a tough road ahead. We have seen rates from Fannie Mae on adjustable rates for low FICO borrowers move from 7%-8% to 10%+. Investors are demanding higher rates to compensate for the enormous defaults. Someone has to pay the tab.
So back to the question: "Is now a good time to buy?"

Yes it is. Not because homes may be priced right, though, but because mortgage products should look very different come this Fall. And no matter how "cheap" the home, you can't buy it if you can't get financing for it or write a check for it. If you are considering buying or refinancing look at your mortgage options now.