Mortgage Mania 18 - Can You Say Taxpayer Bailout?
September 9, 2008
What The Government Seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Means To You
Unless you have been hiding under a rock the past couple of days, you couldn’t miss the announcement that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has placed government backed mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into a conservatorship. Under the terms of the deal, the federal government is authorized to take up to an 80 percent stake in the companies, and, as part of its duties under the conservatorship, will review both Fannie’s and Freddie’s financial condition quarterly, as well as inject money into the operations as needed.
of Stern Mortgage in Palo Alto had this to say about the Treasury Department’s move.
“To promote market stability, the companies will be allowed to buy more mortgages through the end of 2009. However, starting in 2010 the number of mortgages they own will gradually be reduced at a rate of 10% per year, eventually stabilizing at about $250 billion.”
As part of this weekend’s action, both CEOs were relieved of their duties and Herbert Allison, former Merrill Lynch vice chairman, and David Moffett, former U.S. Bancorp CFO, were selected to lead Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, respectively.
The markets cheered the move with the NYSE and NASDAQ rallying on the news, and mortgages rates for conforming loans (under $650,000 in 2009) fell almost half a point.
All great news, mortgage rates fall, and the housing slump is averted, right? Not so fast there partner . . .
In a statement released today by the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), concern over the long-term impact of the move was expressed with the following cautionary forecast:
“Without an institutionalized mortgage-backed securities market, mortgage capital eventually will be less predictable and more expensive, and adjustable-rate mortgages could become the standard loan for home buyers, as could higher down payment requirements. The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage as we know it will no longer be readily available for most home buyers and may effectively disappear. The result could be a dramatic decline in homeownership rates in California and across the nation.”
C.A.R. is concerned that the Treasury, and Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s new CEOs, will overreact and change the mission and role of the GSEs. Wall Street and investors are understandably reluctant to buy mortgage backed securities (MBS) that are not either originated from or guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie.”
I added the underlining for emphasis because what nobody is talking about is JUMBO loans. Those mortgages above $729,000 (over $650,000 in 2009) that are part and parcel of almost ALL sales of single family homes here in Silicon Valley (the median home price in Palo Alto this week is: $1,921,214, courtesy of Altos Research).
In summary, while this is a good move for conforming loans, and the majority of potential homebuyers across the country, high-cost areas like Silicon Valley may once again be left out in the cold.
Stay tuned for our next edition of Mortgage Mania - The Jumbo Strikes Back
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: bailout, California Association of Realtors, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, housing market, housing market turnaround, Mortgage, Palo alto housing market, silicon valley economy, silicon valley real estate
May 28, 2008
Yes, for those of you gents who still may be holding on to the rather relaxed “grunge” look from the 1990’s, I’ve got a newsflash for you: grunge, along with the current housing crisis, is over.
Articles about the housing crisis ending have been few and buried in their respective periodical, my favorite of which was in TIME magazine back in February titled, “Ignore the Headlines“. But now we have the Wall Street Journal. claiming that the trough was reached in April with an article from May 6, “The Housing Crisis is Over“.
I agreed with Peter Lynch back in February.., and it’s becoming more an more apparent that the longer prospective home-buyers sit on the fence, the more expensive that home purchase will become. And this is not just because I believe that home prices will rise, it’s also because I believe that both long and short term interest rates will rise. The 10-year Treasury Note, for example, is up over 1/2% since the middle of March, and the 10-year Treasury Note is a decent barometer to use when you want to know what the trend in long term mortgage rates have been.
That written, if you really want to continue with the grunge look, might I suggest saving it for your next camping trip?
As always, kindly consult with your trusted real estate, tax and mortgage professional before seriously considering any home purchase.
Tags: Consumer, For buyers, For sellers, Industry, Mortgage, Palo Alto, palo-alto-real-estate, Real estate, Real estate blogging, real-estate-market
April 2, 2008
Zillow, the perennial surprise-maker of online real estate, has just launched its long-anticipated foray into the mortgage world with a “Mortgage Marketplace.” The company’s original online real estate product — the controversial “Zestimate” — is a computer algorithm estimating the value of homes. The logical mechanism behind a “Mortgage Marketplace” would thus also be a computer algorithm — say, a mortgage pricing engine that spits out rates from lenders based on the borrower’s situation.
In a delicious twist of irony, however, the mechanical Turk behind this new product is … a person. As in, homo sapien. Specifically, a mortgage professional.
In a pre-launch briefing with “What would David Gibbons do” David Gibbons, he described the all-too-typical grief that a potential borrower goes through with many lenders, whether online or offline: bait-and-switch salesmanship, hidden fees, inflated rates, and perhaps most egregiously, a complete lack of anonymity.
Zillow’s solution? Let consumers ask for mortgage quotes without revealing their name. Let mortgage brokers respond to these requests. Let consumers sift through the responses and choose the broker they want to work with; then and only then does the buyer have to reveal his or her name.
What about the whole bait-and-switch thing? Zillow deals with that in a very Web 2.0 way — consumer reviews of mortgage broker performance. Plus, the participating mortgage brokers are vetted — at least minimally — to confirm that they are, in fact, licensed mortgage brokers.
And here’s something sure to make at least some mortgage brokers sweat a bit: the competing mortgage offers are visible not just to the consumer who requested them…but also to the other mortgage brokers who submitted offers!
The cost to mortgage brokers? Zero. In David’s words, Zillow remains committed to being an advertising platform. The data they can now gather about consumers — what their home is worth, other homes they’re interested in, and now their income and credit score — makes it possible to target-advertise with nearly pinpoint precision. David assures us this is not being done in a “Big Brother” kind of way, but if I understand him correctly it may soon be possible, for instance, for Mercedes to target ads that will appear only in front of prospective buyers with an income of at least $100K and a credit score of at least 720.
- Todd Carpenter likes it.
- Tribute Media reviews the product.
- Further explanation from Rich Barton, Zillow CEO.
- Drew Meyers weighs in.
- Greg Swann notes that this product reduces the information asymmetry in the mortgage lending business, and sheds further light on how Zillow manages the wealth of personal information they’re able to gather about consumers.
- Joel Burslem has some questions, but is submitting a loan request as we speak.
Tags: Consumer, Industry, Mortgage, Zillow
March 18, 2008
If you’re Eliot Spitzer, probably three feelings come to mind: panic, disorientation and regret. But if you’re a potential home buyer in the Peninsula region of California, you have good reason to feel excited, encouraged and confident! Why? If you read my last post last month, you know that the conforming loan limits for many California Counties are going up and that means cheaper mortgage rates on loan amounts between $417,001 and $729,750. Now that HUD has made it official that ALL bay Area counties qualify for the revised maximum conforming loan limit, that means potentially big savings on mortgages for qualified applicants looking to purchase single-unit properties up to $810,000 with as little as 10% down!
We’ve all heard the cliche, “the devil’s in the details”, so what are the latest requirements to obtain a conforming loans between $417,001 and $729, 750? Since I’ll provide you with a link to Fannie Mae website and announcement , I’ll provide you with some highlights that I think are most relevant and let you read further at your leisure:
1. Single-unit properties only
2. Purchase and “limited cash out” transactions only (i.e. no greater than $2,000 going into your pocket upon settlement)
3. If primary residence purchase, up to 90% loan-to-value (”LTV”) allowed if fixed-rate program is selected–700 minimum FICO(R) required; 80% LTV if an adjustable-rate loan is selected–660 minimum FICO(R) required; if refinance
4. If second home or investment property purchase, maximum 60% LTV allowed with minimum 660 FICO(R) regardless of eligible loan program selected
5. If refinance, regardless of type of eligible mortgage program, up to 75% LTV allowed, plus subordinate financing allowed in addition up to 20% LTV–660 minimum FICO(R) required
a. SPECIAL NOTE, consolidating existing first mortgage and subordinate mortgage into one loan NOT eligible AND six months of “seasoning” (six payments made on existing mortgage) required to refinance!
6. Loans are eligible for origination NOW
7. Eligible programs include 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed, LIBOR-based 5/1 ARM (amortized and interest-only payments allowed for this program)– more programs may become available
8. Sufficient employment, income and assets must be verified and each file will require manual underwriting– automated underwriting engines not allowed at this time
Again, I do encourage you to read the Fannie Mae announcement from the 6th of March for all the details, but the above are the top highlights.
So what will pricing look like on these “new” conforming mortgages? Well, pricing has just recently been released by only a few institutions, but it looks like the 30-year fixed is running at about 6.375% and the 15-year fixed is running at about 6.25%. The 5/1 ARM pricing is expected to be released next month. What I do think is that pricing may actually get a little better in the short term as more institutions post pricing and auctions are successful with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
What’s right for you as a would be home buyer on the Peninsula? That depends of course on your specific situation, and I do encourage you to consult with your trusted mortgage and financial consultant before placing an offer on a home or refinancing your mortgage. What I can say is that the majority of our clients who are buying or refinancing today are selecting a jumbo 5-year ARM in the mid-5% range due to its balance of savings, security and flexibility.
Tags: Buyers, Consumer, For buyers, Home buying, Industry, Menlo Park, Mortgage, Mortgages, Mountain View, Palo Alto, palo-alto-real-estate, Real estate, Real estate blogging
February 21, 2008
All hail our legislative and executive branches for passing into law the latest shot of adrenaline to our economy: the 2008 stimulus package. And it looks like a record was set with how fast the bill became law– wow, pretty impressive… Efforts like providing consumers with tax refund checks and businesses with additional write-offs should certainly inject the economy with billions of dollars, but many have asked me how raising the conforming loan limit, especially in CA, will truly stimulate the economy. Further, many of those have asked me whether it’s really the right thing to do.
Let’s start with whether it’s the right thing to do. Probably one of the better arguments against raising the conforming loan limit is the fact that doing so seems to reward those institutions and individuals that/who put us into this mess. If estimates by the National Association of Realtors is correct, 500,000 refinance transactions will be generated, 300,000 additional homes will be purchased and 210,000 foreclosures will be avoided. So if we conservatively estimate the revenue generated and the losses avoided using industry standards, the total is over 40 billion dollars! $40 billion certainly helps answer the question of how such an effort helps the economy; but again, why help those who caused billions of dollars of losses and a turned the market upside down? Shouldn’t we be punishing those bad, bad people and institutions? Well, the truth is that many of those institutions and individuals have gone away or moved on. So let’s take a moment to see what’s being created here.
Raising the conforming loan limit has the following benefits:
- It does in fact greatly stimulate the economy
- Many consumers who got in over their head will now be able to afford their mortgage
- Greater affordability for housing is created
- It will influence a portion of the jumbo market that has been lost and create some investor confidence, and finally
- California has been long overdue to have a raise to the conforming limit given that over 50% of the nation’s jumbo mortgages were originated in California.
Okay, let’s say that raising the conforming loan limit is good for a moment. What’s next and what are the details? There’s still some speculation, but here goes:
- The conforming loan amount will be determined based on 125% of the median price of a given county…
- This allowance will NOT go into effect for purchase or refinance transactions until July 1, 2008 (that’s the earliest date that the loan application may be signed) since the market needs from now to June 30, 2008 to liquidate current qualifying mortgages available for sale from institutions
- The types of programs allowed will be fixed-rate programs on a full-doc basis, which means that the hybrid, interest-only programs using “stated” income will not be allowed
- The property must be single-family and owner occupied, which means that 2nd homes, investment properties and multi-unit properties are ineligible
- Credit scores must be “reasonable” with a combined loan-to-value not to exceed 90%
- No cash-out, which means that a refinance may not allow the borrower to receive any greater than $2,000 at closing
- Loans must be funded and closed prior to December 31, 2008
The last question really has to do with what pricing of conforming loans will look like come July 1, 2008. My prediction is that, all things being equal today, that conforming loan rates will increase and that jumbo loan rates will decrease, leaving a much smaller margin between conforming and jumbo loans in the future. Since all things won’t be equal due to decreased short-term rates by the Fed and the overall stimulus package helping the economy, conforming loan rates will increase greater than jumbo loan rates will decrease. So, if you’re buying closer to the conforming level today, you’re better off getting a mortgage for the long term; if you’re at the jumbo level today, you’re likely better off going more for a short-term solution. Of course always consult closely with your mortgage, tax and legal professional for the best advice as it relates to your individual situation.
Tags: Buyers, Conforming Loan Limit, Conforming Loans, first-time buyer, For buyers, Mortgage
February 19, 2008
I’d like to thank Kristen Emery at Princeton Capital in Palo Alto for providing me with the first bit of information that actually explains what the changes to conforming loans will mean to someone in Silicon Valley trying to buy a home.
A little light reading for you:
We have seen a whirlwind of legislative activity these past few weeks! There is much confusion surrounding the recentlypassed Economic Stimulus Package and higher loan limits. Unfortunately, the new law can be confusing to decipher, andnot everyone will benefit. For this reason, we have provided an outline below that clarifies what this new law means for youand how you can benefit from the higher loan limits.
Description and Overview:An economic stimulus package just passed Congress on February 7, 2008 and was signed into law by the President onFebruary 13, 2008. This new law is effective immediately and includes a temporary increase in both the FHA andconforming loan limits to as high as $729,750 in high cost areas. This means that the interest rates on many mortgages willgo down because these loans are now eligible to be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or insured by the FederalHousing Administration (FHA). Previously, the FHA was only allowed to insure loans with balances lower than $200,160 -$362,790, depending on the county where the property was located. Also, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were only allowedto purchase loans with balances at or below $417,000. This resulted in limited options and higher financing costs for thosewith loan balances above these limits. The new law substantially increases these limits in high cost areas and opens upnew options and lower financing costs for many people.
How to Determine “High Cost” AreasThere are two things you must know in order to determine if you are in a high cost area:
1. Understanding the Formula
If 125% of the local area median home price exceeds $417,000, the temporary loan limitwould be that 125% of the median home price with a cap of $729,750. Here are threeexamples to illustrate this concept: If the median home price in your area is $375,000, 125% of that number is$468,750. Thisis above the current $417k conforming loan limit. Therefore, the conforming loan limit inyour area WILL change and go up to $468,750. This number is also higher than thehighest FHA loan limits, so therefore your FHA loan limit will also go up to $468,750. If the median home price in your area is $650,000, 125% of that number is $812,500.This number is greater than the maximum cap of $729,250. Therefore, the conforming loan limit in your area willincrease to highest allowable amount under this new law which is $729,250. (Our median home price is $612,000 for Santa Clara County).
2. Determining the Median Home Price in Your Area
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will publish the median house prices within 30 days of the billgoing into effect (30 days from February 13, 2008). HUD does not have any interim stats or information for us to use. However, the bill also states that HUD can use any commercially available data if they are unable to compile theinformation on their own within the 30 day timeframe. With that in mind, it is likely that HUD’s numbers will be relativelyconsistent with the data published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which already has a solid track record oftracking and publishing this information on a quarterly basis. Therefore, until HUD actually publishes their version of the median home prices, the most accurate way to get thisinformation today is to utilize the data that is published by NAR. Ironically, NAR just released their latest median homeprice update for the 4th quarter of 2007 on February 14, 2008! Contact me today and I’ll research your info and let youknow exactly what the median home price is in your area and how you can benefit from this information.
What do all the dates mean?
There is some confusion because the bill has a provision that says the higher limits areonly effective for loans originated between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008. Inshort, the reason it is effective beginning July 1, 2007, is because the credit crisis startedto unfold in July and August of 2007. Mortgage market conditions rapidly deterioratedalmost overnight. Many secondary market investors suddenly refused to purchase loansthat couldn’t be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (For more info on how this processworks, please see the article entitled Saga of the US Mortgage Industry.) Unfortunately, many mortgage banks had already funded these loans in their ownportfolio or through their warehouse lines of credit. Their intention was obviously to sellthese loans on the secondary market after the loans were funded. However, the creditcrisis prevented them from doing so, and they were stuck holding these loans in theirportfolio. The July 1, 2007 date in the bill is designed to allow these lenders to unloadthese mortgages and sell them on the secondary market to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
However, the July 1, 2007 date has no bearing whatsoever on new refinance transactions!
In other words, it doesn’tmatter when the loan you are refinancing was originated. The old loan could have been originated in 2005, 2006 oranytime before or after July 1, 2007 and it would have no effect whatsoever on your current purchase or refinancetransaction.
If you are refinancing a new loan today, whether it is a purchase or refinance transaction, that loan issubject to the new limits set forth in the bill.
The other date of December 31, 2008 means that the old limits will go back into effect after this year. In other words, now isthe perfect time to buy a new home or refinance your mortgage because after this year, your costs will be higher and youroptions more limited again.
When does this all go into effect?
February 13, 2008 – immediately upon the President’s signature. Therefore, HUD is obligated to publish the median homeprices within 30 days of that date. However, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and various wholesale lenders may have different policies as to how these new loans are going to be priced and underwritten.
- - - Information provided by:
Tags: 2008 real estate market, 4---mortgage-mania, Conforming Loans, first-time buyer, Mortgage, Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007
February 19, 2008
. . . Said my friend Amy to me the other day. Since she is sort of a typical first time buyer, (actually not), I decided to make an example of her and contribute to her 15 mins of fame.
Amy is your somewhat typical Sillycon Valley MBA tech-marketing type. She works in marketing for a large company, so her income is derived from her salary, as opposed to commissions or stock options that may or may not vest. The company is stable, so her bonuses tend to be consistent and her income fairly predictable. She recently moved from one giant tech company to a large one, so she has a number of years of experience in her industry and job classification, excellent credit, and some equity from a condo that she sold.
Being an MBA, and financially conservative (politically liberal), she can comfortably afford something in the $650K price range, even in the current lending environment. The previous idea was for her to take out two mortgages, a conforming loan of $417,000, and then a second or equity line to cover the rest.
Now that Mr. W. has signed off on the stimulus package that included a short-term increase in the conforming loan limit for 2008, Amy’s interest in buying a house has gone up. The tax rebate will let her buy her kids a happy meal and some new jeans, so her interest is much more in the mortgage changes.
At the time of our conversation, the difference in rates between a conforming (under $417,000) and jumbo ($417,001+) loan was about .75%, depending on a million things, which I will leave to co-contributor Eric Trailer to explain. Jsut plugging in some numbers, on a loan of $585,000 (10% down on our $650K house), her payments would drop about $4300 a year excluding taxes if that loan was at the lower rate. Now we are talking interesting.
Admittedly, this is very simplified, because it doesn’t take into account the cost of a conforming first and then a second, or whether lenders will have tiered pricing based on the loan amount, or credit scores, documented vs. non-documented income, etc., etc., etc.
My intent is to show the effect of this new law on “normal” Silicon Valley home buyers who have “normal” jobs, and are trying to put a roof over their heads. While the tax rebates of a few hundred dollars will only have minor impacts on most of us (I get $300, I think), the effect on home buying capability will be potentially significant.
Let the comments fly, and thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 loan limits, Conforming Loans, economic stimulus, Home buying, Jumbo Loans, Mortgage, mortgage mania, mortgage rates, new home buyer
February 10, 2008
The Superbowl traditionally marks the beginning of the Spring real estate market here in Silicon Valley. True to form, we are seeing inventories climb from seasonal lows, and a lot more people visiting open houses on the weekends. As the media continues to run stories on increasing foreclosures, and an economic stimulus package that includes an increase in the limits for conforming loans wends its way through Congress, more and more people are asking me if this is a good time to buy a home.
In our area (Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Mountain View), prices have been stable in 2007 (except Palo Alto which is up significantly), and we aren’t seeing the big jumps in foreclosure activity that are widely reported in the media in other areas. As the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates to stave off a national recession, loans have become more affordable nationwide, with rates near historic lows.
The majority of short sales and foreclosures in the area have been in homes in the $600,000 price range, having the effect of making many of these homes more affordable as lenders want to get rid of them. In contrast to most economic downturns, the higher - end market is doing better than the lower end.
Fellow contributor and mortgage banker Eric Trailer at Absolute Mortgage Bank in Palo Alto had these thoughts on the local housing market for the next few months:
“The coil on the Spring market is winding tighter every day this year already. Applications are up 100+% this month over December and January’s production is more than double December’s. In addition, we continue to be flooded with refinance inquiries this month. Many of the buyers that we had on the fence have been jumping off in an attempt to get into contract on a home prior to February 9. Why Feb 9? That’s the weekend following The Superbowl, and those fence-jumpers feel as though they can avoid the threat of multiple offers by securing their home now. With many of the top agents that we do business with stating that they have multiple listings coming on the market the week of February 9, combined with the flurry of activity on the buyer’s side, combined further with the strength of our local economy, it’s looks like this Spring will produce transactions well beyond expectation.”
Well Eric, it’s February 10th, my open house for today sold without contingencies 3 days after going on the market, and the number of new listings in Palo Alto this week was double that of any week for about 3 months. It looks like we are off to a good start to 2008, and the local economic indicators are still favorable.
Homes are not liquid investments like stocks, so make sure you actually like the house you are buying, and plan to be there for 5 years or more. With those caveats, in this area, it’s almost always a good time to buy a home.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 real estate market, absolute mortgage bank, Home buying, Mortgage, mortgage rates, palo-alto-real-estate, silicon valley real estate
February 7, 2008
Ah yes, the sweet, sweet smell of pork comes wafting across the country from Washington D.C. where, CAR informs us, the final Stimulus Package bill includes increased conforming loan limits — a feature that had earlier been in danger of not making it through. The CAR press release:
Thanks in part to lobbying by C.A.R. and NAR members, the Senate passed their version of an economic stimulus package today, Thursday, February 07, 2008. The Senate version expands rebate checks for seniors and disabled veterans and includes the same increases to the conforming loan limits for both GSE and FHA found in the House stimulus package. The House just passed the Senate version of the bill and it will now be sent to the White House. The President is expected to sign the legislation by the end of next week, ahead of the Congressional self-appointed deadline of February 15th. The increase in the conforming loan limits will last through 2008, but C.A.R. and NAR continue to lobby for FHA and GSE reform, making these increases permanent.
Interpretation: it’s an election year and the national debt already has more digits than a centipede, so what’s another couple of gazillion bucks?
As soon as this bill passes, expect a wave of re-financing for folks in California and other high-priced states who weren’t able to qualify for conforming loans at the old limit of $417K, but will now qualify with the higher limit of some $700K. Given that the delta between interest rates on conforming and Jumbo loans is a full percent or more, that could spell big relief for some.
Problem is: Will the typical homeowner who benefits from this actually squirrel away the extra couple of hundred bucks, or instead blow it on more toys?
- theFrontSteps modestly shuns credit for the bill’s passage.
- SocketSite hosts a lively comment debate on the topic.
Tags: Conforming Loans, Consumer, Election Year Shenanigans, Industry, Jumbo Loans, Mortgage, Politics, Pork