Mortgage Mania 19 - The Jumbo Strikes Back
September 9, 2008
Amid all the celebration and hullabaloo associated with the recent drop in conforming interest rates as a result of the Treasury Department taking over management of GSE’s Fannie May and Freddie Mac, there has been scant analysis of the elephant in the room, namely Jumbo (aka non-conforming) loans that are part and parcel of home purchasing here in Silicon Valley.
The GSEs hold or have securitized nearly half — roughly $5 trillion — of all mortgages in the U.S., and in the current environment with private lender constraints, they account for the vast majority of all new mortgages in California.
This bailout (oops, did I say bailout?) removes much of the risk to lenders of writing mortgages for under $729,000 locally, decreasing to $649,000 next year, because they can resell these loans to the government backed and now managed GSE’s.
But what about loans over $729,000? Well, Wall Street and the secondary market will still be willing to buy those that are considered low risk (excellent credit score, low loan-to-value ratio, verifiable income), but they will demand a risk premium for those loans, meaning that rates are likely to go up, taking us back to the bifurcated market for rates that we have seen in previous years.
On his way to the SILVAR Golf Tournament yesterday, co-contributor and local mortgage banking hotshot of Absolute Mortgage Bank in Palo Alto gave this quick analysis of where he sees rates going (paraphrased here):
If you know you can sell off a loan to a government backed agency, you have very low risk, so you demand a low interest rate. However, as risk increases you will demand a greater “risk premium” to hedge against not being able to sell that loan, or the buyer defaulting on that loan. Right now we are seeing investors who are willing to lend the 20% to take a buyer from a 20% down, 80% loan to a 100% loan, but at 15% with 5 or 6 points. That’s expensive money, which is why it is dubbed “hard money”, but it offsets the risk to the lender.
Eric thinks we could see Jumbo rates heading to the 8 - 9% region, which is still lower than in the 80’s, but the difference between a 6% loan and a 9% loan on $1,000,000 is $2500 a month just in interest.
Let’s do some math. If you have an 80% mortgage on a median priced home in Palo Alto ($1,921,214, source Altos Research). That is a mortgage of $1,536,971, and payments increasing from $7685 @ 6% to $11,527 @ 9%. That’s a lot of $4.25 a gallon gas!
So, if you are planning on buying a new home and you need to borrow more than $729,000 you may want to get out there looking sooner rather than later.
To learn more about the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and what it means to your home purchase, check out a new video featuring California Association of Realtors Executive Vice President Joel Singer at http://www.car.org/newsstand/video-js-gse. In “Fannie and Freddie: Why They Matter to You,” Joel explains the often confusing but critical role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play in the housing market in clear and concise terms.
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 2008 loan limits, 2009 interest rates, 4---mortgage-mania, bailout, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, interest rates, Jumbo Loans, mortgage bailout, treasury
September 1, 2008
Credit for this post really goes to 3 Oceans contributor Eric Trailer who sent me this content in a letter this week. My clients got it last week, and the blogoshpere can now benefit. We can assume that Eric has better things to do on Labor Day than blog. I’m guessing something involving his lovely wife and son . . .
To see current market data and price trends over the past year for local communities and confirm or refute Eric’s prognostications on the local market in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities,
CLICK HERE to see real-time market data, courtesy of our friends at Altos Research.
As you have likely been hearing, there continues to be more and more evidence that it will cost prospective home buyers more to purchase a home in select areas of the Bay Area as they allow time to go by.
Why? Let’s look at the basic reasons, then review an example:
1. The median price across the board in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities has risen since the beginning of the year.
2. On a national basis, the trough of the market was reached in April.
3. The conforming loan limit will DECREASE over $100,000 in 2009 to $625,000.
4. Rates have risen about .5% since the beginning of the year, despite the increase in the conforming loan limit to $729,750
5. Loan qualifications are becoming more restrictive with each passing week.
6. More restrictions on loans and a tighter supply of money forces rates to go up
7. Because loans require more work to process them (requirements today are 4x what they were a year ago), rates will go up.
8. Inflation is the number one concern of the Fed, and should be the number one concern for all of us.
Let’s say for a moment that you agree that rates are on the rise, but feel as though prices may come down on a $1mm property today; thus, you want to wait. Let’s further assume that you are right and the future price is $950,000, but rates have increased .5% at that future time. Using 20% down, waiting just cost you an ADDITIONAL $117 per month-over $1,400 per year.
But now let’s be more realistic given the appreciation rates of desirable areas of the Bay Area. If rates increase and the $1mm home appreciates to $1,050,000, you are looking at an ADDITIONAL $550 PER MONTH-OVER $6,000 PER YEAR!
What’s the take-away here? Price matters much less than true cost… My motto has always been that it always pays off to buy sooner than later, provided your holding period is greater than four years. And to prove that I walk the walk, I am happy to share my personal situation written as an article titled, “How to Afford a Home in Palo Alto Without a Trust Fund.”
To call Eric on his walking the walk comment, and get a copy of his article, “How to Afford a Home in Palo Alto Without a Trust Fund.”, click on his pretty picture over there in the contributor column to send him an email.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, absolute mortgage bank, mortgage rates, Mortgages, palo alto home prices, Palo alto housing market, palo alto market, palo alto real estate market
June 7, 2008
Long-time Mortgage Mania readers, (aka Mortgage Maniacs) know that I’m an avid reader of the New York Times, so it should come as no surprise that I would have some comments on this article in the Friday June 6 edition regarding the continuing foreclosure crisis affecting consumers across the country.
Authors Bajaj and Grynbaum review some recent statistics on foreclosures, and then go on to predict another wave of foreclosures as the economy continues to slow and more consumers fall victim to layoffs and job cuts.
It’s easy to ignore these rumblings here in wealthy Silicon Valley where the local economy is still vibrant, even with nearly $5 a gallon gas, as it is still a minor impact on a budget with a $5,000 a month mortgage. It’s easy for us living in The Bubble of Unstoppable Real Estate (which I define as: Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Los Altos, your mileage may vary) to say “it can’t happen here”.
Not so fast there pardner. A Short Sale in Atherton you say? It’s almost enough to make you drop your Grey Poupon.
This little number at 199 Selby Lane in Atherton recently listed by Lanny Dannenberg of Keller Williams is a short sale at $1,795,000. It has been on the market with a couple of different brokers for over two years, starting at $2,495,000 in March of 2006.
The good news is that the local market continues to be pretty strong, especially at the upper levels, above $3 million. Don’t take my word for it, check out this market data for the latest facts and figures on Palo Alto and surrounding communities.
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, Atherton, economy, foreclosure, new york times, short sales
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
January 10, 2008
In not a big surprise to anyone, Ben Bernanke today stated that The Fed would cut interest rates further if the economy needs help. The markets rose a bit in response, with the Dow ending up 117 on the day. Of bigger news are rumors of a buyout of struggling Countrywide Financial by Bank of America.
Countrywide has been one of the lenders hardest hit by the recent spate of mortgage defaults and foreclosures nationwide this year, and the stock market has been dragged down with concerns over a potential bankruptcy at Countrywide.
“For the last month, rumors are that Countrywide was going into bankruptcy,” said Ryan Larson, senior trader at Voyageur Asset Management. “Any deal with Bank of America is good news, and the market is looking for even a hint of good news these days.” (read the entire article here).
Both of these tidbits are good news for homebuyers.
1) Lower interest rates at the Fed level will put additional downward pressure on mortgage rates which have sunk back to near historic lows.
2) More importantly, lower rates also reduce the amount that variable rate equity lines go up when they reset from promotional rates, reducing the risk of default for all those loans taken out in the last couple of years that haven’t reset yet. (These would be the other shoe we have been waiting to hear drop). Hopefully, this avoids the proverbial “last straw” that tips the national economy into recession.
3) If Countrywide survives this, either through acquisition or recovery, lenders and Wall Street, whom they resell packaged loans to, will breathe a bit easier about this “unfortunate occurance” passing and money will become cheaper and more freely available, making homes relatively more affordable for buyers, especially those with good credit and down payments of 20% or more.
So, with the Discount Rate currently at 4.25%, and some economists complaining that the Fed should be cutting more aggressively and the rate should be at 3%, I am gaining more respect for Alan Greenspan’s ability to keep the markets under his spell, and give guidance and speeches that left us understanding less what to expect after hearing him than before. Ben has a tough act to follow.
And now back to decoding Greenspan’s book: The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, alan greenspan, Ben Bernanke, economy, Fed Fund Rate, Federal Reserve, financial markets, FOMC, mortage, Real estate
January 9, 2008
Tomorrow (1/10/08) Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak on his outlook on the economy, and the pundits are all expecting that by examining his comments repeatedly, reading tea leaves, and consulting their favorite oracle, they will be able to predict whether the US economy will slide into recession in 2008, and whether the Fed will cut interest rates again at their next meeting.
The stock market seems optimistic, with trading up today as investors shifted into sectors that are seen as resistant to recession and economic contraction. These are things that we spend on whether things are good or bad; food, medical care, gasoline and heating oil.
Some economists say we are already in recession because of a jump in unemployment in December coupled with little growth.
Nationally, I tend to agree with the doomsayers. Here in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View and Menlo Park however, we are still beneficiaries of the strong local economy. Local executives are still complaining that they can’t hire enough engineers, the housing market continues to be strong as we are seeing a net inflow of people, and minimal relative increase in housing (no more land), and we have a unique concentration of educational instituions, venture capital and innovation that enables Silicon Valley to continue to reinvent itself.
In summary - We will likely see a national recession in 2008 and 2009, with housing prices potentially falling by up to 30% in some areas where prices have been driven up by speculators/investors. The local real estate market will remain constrained by supply, so we will see fewer homes being sold, but prices will remain at current levels, or even continue to increase. Great news if you are planning to sell your home in Palo Alto, bad news if you want to buy in Palo Alto.
In the Central Valley this will sadly not be the case . . .
Stay tuned for a recap of tomorrow’s commentary by Fed Chairman Bernanke.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, economy, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, palo alto economy, palo alto real estate market, Real estate, recession
December 11, 2007
Ben And The Boys (aka the FOMC) cut short-term interests rates by .25% earlier today in an attempt to:
1) Soften the mortgage industry landing from a smoking hole in the ground, to more of a smoldering skid mark. Don’t tell Washington Mutual who announced 3000 employees were getting pink slips in their stockings, and the bank is setting aside up to $1.6 Billion for losses in the 4th quarter.
2) Generate some consumer confidence this Holiday Shopping Season, since 2/3 of our economy is driven by consumer spending. Uncle Sam wants you to buy a Ford and / or Chevy.
3) Address concerns that “information suggests that economic growth is slowing,”
4) Give me somethnig to rant about (Thanks, guys!)
Interestingly, Wall Street, which has been on the rise over the last two weeks, had apparently priced in a bigger cut, so it responded by pummeling the Dow, lwhich lost 294 points on the day. Ouch! Maybe some retail therapy is in order . . .
Mortgage rates weren’t significantly affected by the rate cut. The Fed Funds rate is a short-term rate, and mortgage rates are long term. Mortgage rates are still at two-year lows, and it’s a Neutral or Buyer’s Market everywhere but Palo Alto.
Apparently, Palo Altans stayed awake in Econ 101 during the lecture on how relative Supply and Demand affects Prices. Although Demand in Palo Alto has dropped in recent months, Supply has dropped equally or more, maintaining or increasing Prices. Adam Smith would be proud.
Bueller, Bueller . . .
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, 94301, 94303, 94306, buyer's market, Consumer, For buyers, Home buying, interest rate cut, interest rates, Mortgages, Palo Alto, palo alto market, palo alto realtor, palo-alto-real-estate, seller's market, washington mutual
November 6, 2007
My favorite online news source, The New York Times, ran a story today “Dubious Fees Hit Borrowers in Foreclosures” in which the writers interviewed Katherine M. Porter, associate professor of law at the University of Iowa. In a review of many loans that are now going into foreclosure, Porter found that questionable practices among lenders are leading some experts to contend that lenders are taking advantage of higher-risk borrowers and those facing foreclosure.
“Because there is little oversight of foreclosure practices and the fees that are charged, bankruptcy specialists fear that some consumers may be losing their homes unnecessarily or that mortgage servicers, who collect loan payments, are profiting from foreclosures.
Bankruptcy specialists say lenders and loan servicers often do not comply with even the most basic legal requirements, like correctly computing the amount a borrower owes on a foreclosed loan or providing proof of holding the mortgage note in question.
“Regulators need to look beyond their current, myopic focus on loan origination and consider how servicers’ calculation and collection practices leave families vulnerable to foreclosure,” said Katherine M. Porter, associate professor of law at the University of Iowa.”
You may be asking what this means to you in Palo Alto, happily making your payments on your $1+ million mortgage on your $2.4 million median priced home (no, that isn’t a typo!). As Mortgage Manics have heard me say before (OK, read), national lenders use a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to lending, meaning that practices and guidelines that are developed and applied to home buyers in Iowa, Tennessee and Colorado are also applied to us here in Silicon Valley. As a result, if you are reading about unscrupulous practices and excessive fees by national lenders that are being exposed in areas with high foreclosure rates, you may want to check the fine print on your mortgage and see what you are paying for in addtion to PITI.
In addtion, Porter found that lenders didn’t provide accurate payoff amounts for their loans to consumers, with one claiming they were owed $1,000,000 when the actual payoff amount was $60,000. That must be that fuzzy math stuff . . .
Countrywide was recently sanctioned by a court in Pittsburgh for losing or destroying over $500,000 in checks between December 2005 and April 2007 for homes in foreclosure. These are the companies holding the title to our homes, so we need to keep an eye on them.
On that happy note, have a great week, and thanks for reading.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, 94301, 94303, 94306, bay-area-real-estate, Countrywide, Home buying, Loan-Application, Preapproval, Prequalification, Real estate, real-estate-market, real-estate-prices
October 31, 2007
Dsiclaimer: The following post is based on a presentation by Christopher Thornberg, an economist at Beacon Economics, that I attended last night, courtesy of my accountant, Tom Wagstaff of Petrinovich, Pugh and Co. This is a departure from my normally upbeat view of the local economy, and fortunately they re-opened the bar following the presentation for all the Realtors in the audience to drown their sorrows.
Economist Chris Thornberg showed some pretty convincing evidence for his expectation that housing prices will fall between 20% and 25% over the next couple of years, primarily because the ratio of home prices to incomes is higher than anytime in history, almost double the peaks in previous economic cycles. Gloom and doom for an hour, ah it brought tears to the eyes of many a Realtor in San Jose. Smugly I said, ” . . .but I live and work in Palo Alto, land of Stanford, Venture Capital, Facebook and Google! Sushi on every table and a BMW in every driveway! We are our own little world here, so we don’t have to worry about the housing market meltdown in Nebraska, or even the East Bay.”
Not so fast. The lastest housing boom has been driven by increasing housing prices, driven in part by cheap credit and loans. More people got these loans, bought more expensive houses, so the demand for these loans went up, and the cycle accelerated.
Now the appreciation is going the other way (flat to negative), and the equity that has driven consumer spending over the last few years (cash out refi = new boat), has gone away (bye, bye boat, and house!). Thornberg forecasts that the subprime meltdown will be followed by Alt - A defaults (already happening) which will pull down the high-end markets from below (that would be Palo Alto, Los Altos, etc.). Even if the Fed were to reduce interest rates to 0%, it wouldn’t fix this mess. Much like last night’s temblor in San Jose, Palo Alto will be on the periphery of this shakeup. We won’t be knocked flat, but we will rock and roll a bit, and not in the fun way. Sigh . . .
To add to the gloom, I have been attending recent forums for candidates for Palo Alto City Council. Whether the topic is Palo Alto’s aging libraries, or green initiatives, the same topics keep coming up: Infrastructure, Schools, Tax revenue.
If you live or work in Palo Alto, I highly recommend you take an interest in the upcoming City Council race and the issues the candidates are raising. You can learn more about the issues and candidates on the Palo Alto Weekly website.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, Buyer and seller tips, Countrywide, Facebook, Google, Google Analytics, Home selling, Loan-Application, Option ARMs, Preapproval, Prequalification, Real estate, real-estate-market, real-estate-prices
July 31, 2007
This whole subprime / mortgage industry meltdown hullaballoo is getting a little surreal, so forgive the Star Wars reference. This article in today’s New York Times reports that trading in shares of American Home Mortgage never opened yesterday, after the company announced following the market close on Friday that “it would suspend its dividend and was facing “significant margin calls” from its banks. “. I’ll bet that made for a fun-filled weekend for AHM execs . . .
This comes hot on the heels of last week’s announcement by the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, that it was seeing rising incidences of default on second mortgages to prime borrowers. Second mortgages to prime borrowers?!? Hey, isn’t that how we buy houses here in Silicon Valley if we didn’t get a job as a janitor at Google a few years ago? Uh oh . . .
So I rang up Andy Block at OPES Advisors, and asked him for some thoughts on all this, specifically how it is going to affect the purchasing power of my client Patrick. I mention Patrick because he is a “typical buyer” these days. He and his wife both have six-figure income jobs, and will net around $250K from the sale of their current home. They want to move from their current home in San Jose to Los Altos or Mountain View to get their kids into better schools, while getting a bit larger house. Andy had reviewed their income, credit, investment and retirement plans, debt, etc. etc. and came up with a range of $1.3M to $1.5M as a purchase price for their next house. They did the analysis about 3 months ago, because they are planners. Does this sound familiar?
It looks like the current changes in lending guidelines and interest rates are going to cost these folks about $100K or so in buying power, all other things being equal. Bummer.
I also chatted with Eric Trailer at Absolute Mortgage, and he agreed that we are seeing a period of adjustment, and that things should stabilize in 6 months or so once the regulatory reaction and new lending guidelines have had a chance to “work their way through the system”.
Both of these resources reminded me that mortgage interest rates are still 7% or less for borrowers with good credit, which are historically low, so don’t panic if you are in the market, and stay in touch with your lender if you have a pre-approval that is more than 30 days old.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, Financing-Process, Loan Application, palo-alto-real-estate, Preapproval, Prequalification, Real estate