Friday, February 22, 2008

Conforming Jumbo Limit Changed, but wait.......

Congress' plan to help the jumbo loan market -- passed two weeks ago as part of the Economic Stimulus Act -- still is a work in progress. Key details of the plan were left to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to nail down, which may take until next month. What's more, the securities industry's biggest trade group last week surprised lenders when it recommended that larger loans be in effect isolated from smaller mortgages in the "secondary" market, where loans are packaged into securities for sale to investors.That could keep interest rates on jumbo loans higher than some borrowers had hoped, analysts say. All of this has many homeowners who want to refinance, as well as would-be buyers, on edge -- particularly in the high-priced markets. The market for large jumbo mortgages has been a major casualty of the credit crunch that has slammed the economy since late summer.

As loan delinquencies have soared and scores of mortgage lenders have folded, many remaining lenders have become unwilling to make loans unless they know they can sell them to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance companies.But under federal rules, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac couldn't buy loans larger than $417,000 -- the limit for what was labeled a "conforming" mortgage.The Economic Stimulus Act gave HUD the ability to boost conforming loan limits in high-cost areas to as much as $729,750 through the end of this year.The hope was that that would quickly help support refinancings and home purchases in expensive markets hit hard by the housing downturn. But Congress left it to HUD to set new conforming-loan limits by region, based on a formula that takes into account the median home price in each region. The department has 30 days from Feb. 13 -- the date President Bush signed the act -- to revise the jumbo conforming loan limits. HUD officials said this week that they had not yet come up with numbers. The department is expected to set new conforming limits on a county-by-county basis, just as it does for Federal Housing Administration-insured loans. If HUD's home-price data are similar to recent figures published by DataQuick Information Systems, analysts say conforming-loan limits would skyrocket through much of California, from the current $417,000 to at least $572,500 in Los Angeles County and $650,000 in Orange County.

Loan balances, however, are just one component of what makes a loan conforming. Other issues include the type of income documentation provided and a borrower's credit score. At Freddie Mac in McLean, Va., spokesman Doug Duvall said the company was discussing what the standards should be for larger conforming loans."We are going to be defining the loan-to-value ratios, how much down payment the person needs and the credit score of the borrower," Duvall said. "These are some of the things that we measure. We are wrestling with how different those will be from the traditional conforming" loans.Even if Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae begin buying significant numbers of larger loans, it isn't clear how significant an interest saving that will mean for borrowers.

Since the bad inflation reports and government intervention in the mortgage market three weeks ago the rates for 30Y fixed jumbo loans has moved up .50%. Th best value for clients is the 5Y and 7Y jumbo interest only loan. We have seen various information that possibly fifteen counties in the whole country would see a boost. Your neighborhood might be expensive but HUD is using the median for your county. The Hollywood Hills Real Estate you've haid your eye on and that condo in South Beach might be 1.5m but both counties have a median value in the mid 500's.

In our opinion this proposal was created to address the home owner with a jumbo loan balance in the 417-600k range. This is a bandaid on a large wound. Credit markets will continue to contract until the losses stop and the loans begin to perform again.