REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

May 26, 2017

Fannie Mae Student Loan Mortgage Swap

By David Reiss

HIghYa quoted me in Fannie Mae Student Loan Mortgage Swap: Should You Do It? It reads, in part,

This past week federal mortgage giant Fannie Mae announced it had created a new avenue for its borrowers to pay off student loans: the student loan mortgage swap.

The swap works like this, according to documentation published by Fannie Mae:

  • Fannie Mae mortgage borrowers get the benefit
  • They do a “cash-out” refinance
  • The money from that refinance is used to pay off your loan(s) in full

The concept of this is pretty elegant in our opinion. People who are saddled with student loans – the average grad has about $36,000 in debt at graduation – don’t usually stumble upon a huge chunk of money to pay off those loans.

If you’re lucky enough to own a home that’s gone up in value enough to create a sizeable difference between what your home is worth and what you owe, then Fannie Mae allows you to borrow against that amount (equity) by taking it out as cash you can use on a student loan.

The idea is that your mortgage rate will probably be lower than your student loan rate, which means instead of paying back your student loans at 6.5%, let’s say, you can now pay it back at your mortgage refi rate of, in most cases, less than 4.5%.

Basically, you’re swapping your student loan payments for mortgage payments, which is how this little financial maneuver gets its name.

The news first came out on April 25 in the form of a press release which said the mortgage swap was designed to offer the borrower “flexibility to pay off high-interest rate student loans” and get a lower mortgage rate.

The change was among two others that will, in theory, work in favor of potential or current homeowners who have student loan debt.

“These new policies provide three flexible payment solutions to future and current homeowners and, in turn, allow lenders to serve more borrowers,” Fannie Mae Vice President of Customer Solutions Jonathan Lawless said in the release.

What You Need to Know About Fannie Mae’s Student Loan Swap

Remember how we said that the money you get from your mortgage refinance can be used for a student loan or multiple student loans?

That happens because this refinance is what’s known as a cash-out refinance.

What is a Cash-Out Refinance?

A cash-out refinance is part of the general class of refinancing.

When you refinance your home, you’re basically selling the rest of what you owe to a lender who’s willing to let you pay them back at a lower interest rate than what you currently have.

The upside is that you have lower monthly payments because your interest rates are lower, but the downside is that your payments are lower because they’re most likely spread out over 30 years, or, at least, longer than what you had left on your original mortgage.

So, you’ll be paying less but you’ll be paying longer.

A cash-out refinance adds a twist to all this. You see, when you do a traditional refinance, you’re borrowing the amount you owe. However, in a cash-out refinance, you actually borrow more than you owe and the lender gives you the difference in cash.

Let’s say you owe $100,000 on your house at 7% with 20 years left. You want to take advantage of a cash-out refi, so you end up refinancing for $120,000 at 4.6% for 30 years.

Assuming all fees are paid for, you get $20,000 in cash. The lender gives you that cash because it’s yours – it comes from the equity in your home.

How the Fannie Mae Student Loan Swap Works

Fannie Mae’s new program takes the cash-out refinance a little further and says that you can only use your cash-out amount for student loans.

However, it’s not that easy. There are certain requirements you have to meet in order to be eligible for the program. Here’s a list of what you need to know:

  • The borrower has to have paid off at least one of their student loans
  • You’re only allowed to pay off your student loans, not loans other people are paying
  • The money must cover the entire loan(s), not just part of it/them
  • Your loan-to-value ratios must meet Fannie Mae’s eligibility matrix

We checked the Fannie Mae eligibility matrix and, at the time this article was published in April 2017, the maximum loan-to-value they’d allow on your principle residence was 80% for a fixed-rate mortgage and 75% on an adjustable rate mortgage.

In other words, they want to know that what you owe on the house is, at most, 80% of what it’s worth.

*     *     *

Our Final Thoughts About Fannie Mae’s Student Loan Swap

The Fannie Mae student loan mortgage swap is certainly an innovative way to cut down on your student loan debt via equity in your home.

The pros of this kind of financial product are that, if cash-out refinance rates are lower than student loan rates, then you can stand to save money every month.

And because refis typically last 30 years, your monthly payments will most likely be lower than what they were when you were making payments on your mortgage and your student loan.

The main drawbacks of using a Fannie Mae cash-out refinance to pay off your loans is that you’ll put your home at a higher risk because house values could fall below the amount you borrowed on your refi.

Making a student loan mortgage swap also changes your debt from unsecured to secured. Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss reiterated this point in an email to us.

He said that borrowers need to “proceed carefully when they convert unsecured debt like a student loan into secured debt like a mortgage.”

The benefits are great, he said, but the dangers and risks are pretty acute.

“When debt is secured by a mortgage, it means that if a borrower defaults on the debt, the lender can foreclose on the borrower’s home,” David said. “Bottom line – proceed with caution!”

We think what Mark Kantrowitz and David Reiss have pointed out is extremely valuable. While a student loan mortgage swap may seem like a good way to pay off your debt, the fact that it swaps your unsecured debt for secured debt could mean trouble down the road.

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May 26, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Jamila Moore

 

 

 

 

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May 26, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

May 25, 2017

NYC’s Housing Supply

By David Reiss

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board (of which I am a member) released its 2017 Housing Supply Report. It has a lot of interesting data for housing nerds as well as those of us obsessed with NYC. Here is a taste:

  • There are a total of 3,217,521 units of housing.
  • 2,184,295 are rental units.
    • 848,721 are non-regulated rentals.
    • 1,335,574 are regulated rentals in one form or another (rent stabilized, rent controlled etc.)
  • 1,033,226 are owner units.
    • 116,134 are condos
    • 330,679 are coops
    • 586,413 are conventional homes.

Some other highlights include,

  • Permits for 16,269 new dwelling units were issued in NYC in 2016, a 71.2% decrease over the prior year and the first decrease since 2009.
  • There was a 31.3% decrease in the number of co-op or condo units accepted in 2016, to 282 plans containing 8,671 units.
  • The number of housing units newly receiving 421-a exemptions decreased 17.8% in 2016, to 4,493.
  • The number of housing units newly receiving J-51 abatements and exemptions decreased 22.5% in 2016, to 34,311.
  • The number of new housing units completed in 2016 increased 61.9% over the prior year, to 23,247.
  • Demolitions were down in 2016, decreasing by 2.0%, to 1,849 buildings.
  • City-sponsored residential construction spurred 23,408 new housing starts in FY 2016, 74% of which were rehabilitations.
  • The City-owned in rem housing stock declined 70.2% during FY 2016, to 125 units. (4)

For those who do not know the byzantine world of NYC housing policy, 421-a exemptions relate to new construction and J-51 abatements relate to renovation of existing construction. It is interesting to see how policy changes impact housing construction.

Any one year’s figures provide just a snapshot, so if you really want to get a sense of the big picture, you should check out the earlier reports too. For instance, last year’s report stated that there were permits for 56,528 new dwelling units in 2015, an increase of 176% from 2014.  This is way more than the long term trend. Permits for new dwelling units never got much higher than the low thirty thousand range but fell to a low as six thousand during the depths of the Great Recession.

When you realize that the 421-a tax abatement was set to expire at the end of 2015, this big jump in permits makes sense as developers filed a ton of permits to take advantage of the program while they could. It will be interesting to see how the new 421-a regime will impact permits for new construction going forward.

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May 25, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • Despite the spike in the national mortgage interest rate and the low inventory of U.S. homes, 2017’s first quarter sold at its fastest pace in over ten years. As a result, home prices are increasing. There  are fewer perspective homes; however, the pool of buyers is immense. Though there is an increase in the purchase of homes, millennials don’t seem rushed to purchase a home.
  • Guild Mortgage company is creating a new down payment trend. The mortgage company is offering a 1% down payment plan aimed at increasing the number of millennials willing to purchase homes. Qualifying applicants will be required to pay a 1% down payment and opt for a 2% grant or 2% paid by the lender. Guild’s program is unique from other 1% mortgage programs because it complies with the Home Ready Guidelines.

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May 25, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

May 24, 2017

American Bankers on Mortgage Market Reform

By David Reiss

The American Bankers Association has issued a white paper, Mortgage Lending Rules: Sensible Reforms for Banks and Consumers. The white paper contains a lot of common sense suggestions but its lack of sensitivity to consumer concerns greatly undercuts its value. It opens,

The Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System, enumerated in Executive Order 13772, include the following that are particularly relevant to an evaluation of current U.S. rules and regulatory practices affecting residential mortgage finance:

(a) empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;

(c) foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk and market failures, such as moral hazard and information asymmetry; and

(f) make regulation efficient, effective, and appropriately tailored.

The American Bankers Association offers these views to the Secretary of the Treasury in relation to the Directive that he has received under Section 2 of the Executive Order.

 Recent regulatory activity in mortgage lending has severely affected real estate finance. The existing regulatory regime is voluminous, extremely technical, and needlessly prescriptive. The current regulatory regimen is restricting choice, eliminating financial options, and forcing a standardization of products such that community banks are no longer able to meet their communities’ needs.

 ABA recommends a broad review of mortgage rules to refine and simplify their application. This white paper advances a series of specific areas that require immediate modifications to incentivize an expansion of safe lending activities: (i) streamline and clarify disclosure timing and methodologies, (ii) add flexibility to underwriting mandates, and (iii) fix the servicing rules.

 ABA advises that focused attention be devoted to clarifying the liability provisions in mortgage regulations to eliminate uncertainties that endanger participation and innovation in the real estate finance sector. (1, footnote omitted)

Its useful suggestions include streamlining regulations to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens; clarifying legal liabilities that lenders face so that they can act more freely without triggering outsized criminal and civil liability in the ordinary course of business; and creating more safe harbors for products that are not prone to abuse.

But the white paper is written as if the subprime boom and bust of the early 2000s never happened. It pays not much more than lip service to consumer protection regulation, but it seeks to roll it back significantly:

ABA is fully supportive of well-regulated markets where well-crafted rules are effective in protecting consumers against abuse. Banks support clear disclosures and processes to assure that consumers receive clear and comprehensive information that enables them to understand the transaction and make the best decision for their families. ABA does not, therefore, advocate for a wholesale deconstruction of existing consumer protection regulations . . . (4)

If we learned anything from the subprime crisis it is that disclosure is not enough.  That is why the rules.  Could these rules be tweaked? Sure.  Should they be dramatically weakened? No. Until the ABA grapples with the real harm done to consumers during the subprime era, their position on mortgage market reform should be taken as a special interest position paper, not a white paper in the public interest.

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May 24, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

May 23, 2017

Renovating Among The Stars

By David Reiss

Justin Theroux, photo by David Shankbone

Realtor.com quoted me in Justin Theroux’s Renovation Drama: What Went Wrong? It opens,

Actor Justin Theroux might have many admirers (including his wife, Jennifer Aniston), but apparently the “Leftovers” hunk inspires more than his share of haters, too—including his Manhattan neighbor Norman Resnicow. Apparently their feud started two years ago, when Theroux decided to renovate his apartment; Resnicow lives one floor down.

As anyone who’s lived under, next to, or anywhere near a demolition site knows, home renovations can get noisy—which is why Resnicow, a lawyer, felt it within his rights to ask Theroux to do the neighborly thing and install soundproofing to muffle the ruckus. There was just one problem: According to the New York Post, the requested soundproofing would cost a whopping $30,000 and make it difficult for Theroux to preserve the original flooring in his place, which he was keen to do. So he refused.

That’s when things got ugly. According to a lawsuit filed by Theroux, Resnicow embarked on a “targeted and malicious years-long harassment campaign” to derail those renovations and just make life unpleasant for the actor.

  • Resnicow accused Theroux’s contractors of damaging the marble in the building’s entranceway, and demanded they make repairs.
  • He halted Theroux’s roof deck renovations by arguing that the fence separating their portions of the deck encroached on his property.
  • Then, for good measure, he cut down the ivy lining the fence purely because he knew that the site of the foliage made Theroux happy.

Theroux now seeks $350,000 from Resnicow, alleging nuisance, trespass, and all in all “depriving Mr. Theroux of his right to use and enjoy his property.”

But Resnicow remains resolute, telling the Post, “I have acted for one purpose only, which remains to assure my and my wife’s health and safety.”

How to balance renovations with neighbor relations

As Theroux’s predicament makes painfully clear, few issues can ruin a neighborly relationship like noise—particularly if you live in an apartment building or other tight quarters. Problem is, homeowners also have a right to make home improvements. So at what point does reasonable renovation ruckus become so loud it’s a legitimate nuisance? That depends, for starters, on where you live, as noise ordinances and other regulations vary by area.

New York City’s Noise Code prohibits construction noise that “exceeds the ambient sounds level by more than 10 decibels as measured from 15 feet from the source.” (And in case you have no clue how to figure that out, the city uses devices called sound meters; you can also download sound meter apps to take your own measurements.) Volume levels aside, most areas have limits on when you can hammer away; in New York, work is typically limited to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The third variable to consider is the co-op, condo, or HOA board that governs your building or community, which may place further restrictions on hours or even the type of renovations you do. Yet if a homeowner like Theroux is following these rules, odds are he’s in the clear.

“In New York City, they say ‘hell hath no fury like an attorney dealing with noisy neighbors,’ but as long as you have the proper permits, then construction noise created during normal business hours is generally allowed, with the understanding that it will only be temporary,” says Emile L’Eplattenier, a New York City real estate agent and analyst for Fit Small Business. “As long as he isn’t running afoul of his building’s rules—which is doubtful—then his neighbor has little recourse.”

Still, if you’re a homeowner about to embark on a renovation who doesn’t want to drive your neighbors nuts, what can you do? For starters, keep in mind that even if the sounds don’t ruffle you, people’s noise sensitivities can vary.

In the words of David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School, “One person’s quiet hum is another’s racket.”

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May 23, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments