REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

May 2, 2017

Tapping Home Equity for Retirement Income

By David Reiss

photo by www.aag.com/retirement-reverse-mortgage-pictures

Newsday quoted me in Consider Tapping Your Home Equity for Retirement Income (behind paywall). It opens,

Just as Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” had her ruby slippers that could have gotten her back to Kansas at any time with three clicks of her heels, retirees have the option of tapping their home sweet home to bridge income shortfalls.

Yet, according to research from the National Council on Aging, only 20 percent of retirees polled said they would be willing to use their home equity to generate income. Information was obtained through focus groups with 112 people aged 60 to 75, and two surveys of 254 financial advisers and 1,002 older homeowners.

When you’re in a pinch, here’s how to get the max out of your home.

– Get over the notion a home is sacred: “Using your home equity to generate retirement income can help you delay claiming Social Security,” says Gary Borowiec, a financial adviser and managing partner at Atlas Advisory Group in Cranford, New Jersey.

– Audit your housing situation: Determine if you’re using your home equity wisely. “Is a senior citizen living in the same home where she raised her children who have now gone off to live on their own? Would it make sense to downsize to an apartment with lower costs and fewer maintenance issues? If so, redirect some of the equity from the original home to investments that can generate an income stream over the course of her retirement,” says David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School specializing in real estate.

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The federal government averted a government shut down through the creation of a new bill that has a high probability of being passed and signed into law. The proposal for housing aid consists of over 20 billion dollars. The funds are slated for Section 8 and rental based assistance. Congress also slated millions of dollars of funding for home purchasers.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) set its sights on diversity and inclusiveness reform in the home mortgage industry. The Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) of the CFPB, held  in a roundtable discussion regarding current diversity practices and serving a diverse clientele.

May 1, 2017

Patenaude To Help Lead HUD

By David Reiss

photo: J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families

Pamela Hughes Patenaude

Realtor.com quoted me in ‘Ultimate Housing Insider’: Pam Patenaude Nominated as HUD Deputy Secretary. It reads,

Pam Patenaude was nominated by President Donald Trump to become deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development, according to a White House statement released on Friday. The move has been met with resounding applause by industry insiders who think her background could serve as the perfect complement to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who entered his role without experience in housing or government.

Patenaude, currently president of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for America’s Families, was formerly an assistant secretary for community, planning, and development at HUD, under President George W. Bush. She also served as director of housing policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission. Patenaude’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

“She’s the ultimate housing insider,” says David Reiss, research director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. “She’s connected and has a lot of respect within the housing field.”

Real estate industry organizations hailed the choice, including the National Association of Realtors®. In a statement, NAR President William E. Brown said, “Pam’s extensive and strong background in real estate and housing will be an asset. … Pam is an ideal candidate for the position; she understands the issues that impact the industry.”

David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, also offered his thumbs-up.

“Pam is an exceptional choice for the position,” Stevens said in a statement. “Personally, I have worked with her for a number of years and she is exactly the kind of leader who will help support the secretary and also address the critical issues ahead for HUD. She has a well-informed understanding of the agency, and essential technical knowledge of the real-estate finance industry. I would encourage the Senate to move swiftly in confirming her nomination.”

This depth of experience, Reiss says, serves as the perfect foil for Carson. As HUD secretary, Carson serves as the public face of this department, while Patenaude will handle the daily duties of running the organization.

“The big criticism of Carson is that he has no experience or background in housing,” Reiss continues. “So to have a No. 2 who’s really responsible for the day-to-day responsibility of the agency is a plus.”

What Patenaude’s appointment could mean for housing

In November, rumors were swirling that the Trump administration was considering Patenaude as HUD secretary, but then Carson got the nod instead, and then the Trump administration released a budget calling for $6 billion in cuts to the department. Patenaude’s nomination has many hopeful that HUD’s core initiatives—like affordable housing—will remain a priority.

“Trump’s ‘skinny budget’ decimated HUD,” Reiss continues. “Trump has made lots of appointments who’ve expressly said they want to destroy the agencies that they’re running. But Patenaude is an insider with HUD. So my hope is she sees the value it provides, and be an advocate for many HUD programs.”

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • A California attorney is thankful. A federal judge halved her $10,000 dollar sanction. Earlier this year, this attorney received several sanctions because a federal judge believed she attempted to stall proceedings through the use of motions at an earlier court date in April.This attorney Laleh Ensafi currently represents a Wells Fargo customer. He is suing the bank for an alleged wrongful foreclosure.
  • Deloitte & Touche LLP escaped another bout of litigation with Fannie Mae. Shareholders of Fannie Mae blame the company for it’s need for a bailout during the financial crisis; however, a federal Florida judge dismissed the suit because the company cited irrelevant case law and waited too long to raise a new argument.

April 28, 2017

Rental Potholes

By David Reiss

photo by Eric Haddox

Realtor.com quoted me in Rental Potholes—and How to Avoid Falling Into Them. It opens,

Until you have the money to buy your own home, renting is eventually a part of just about every person’s life. And typically this transaction tends to work out just fine. Until it doesn’t. Because there is indeed plenty that can go wrong, leaving renters learning some difficult lessons through trial and error. To make sure you aren’t one of them, check out these rental roadblocks—and what you can do to keep from getting stuck.

Somebody’s watching you

“My work took our family to Florida and in our haste to find somewhere to live with our two kids, we found a gorgeous townhouse seaside rental. The ocean views were incredible, just what we’d dreamed of. So incredible, in fact, that we didn’t realize the unit lacked window coverings of any kind! And as much as I loved looking at the ocean, there were times when some level of privacy was desired; people could see into the whole house if they were walking along the beach. When we shared this ‘oversight’ with the landlord, his offer was to split the costs of full-house window coverings! We decided not to help the property owner increase the value of his home. We continued to enjoy ocean views on a 24/7 basis but moved out after a year.” – Rhonda Moret, Del Mar, CA

Lesson learned: Don’t let your enthusiasm keep you from doing your due diligence before thoroughly vetting a place and signing on the dotted line.

“This responsibility falls squarely on the tenant; you can’t expect someone else to look out for your interests. That’s your job,” says David Reiss, academic program director for Brooklyn Law School’s Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship. But by the same turn, don’t fall for a landlord’s request to “split the cost”—any renovations should be his responsibility all the way.

Bye-bye, security deposit

“When I handed our landlord a $1,000 security deposit, I assumed I’d get it back whenever we left, and didn’t bother to do a walk-through of the apartment to make sure it was in decent shape. Big mistake! Once we moved out, the landlord sent us a letter stating he was keeping the security deposit because we had broken a window in the garage. Only we hadn’t—that must have been done by a previous tenant. We got charged for someone else’s damage.” – Mindy Jensen, Wheaton, IL

Lesson learned: “Doing a walk-through inspection is important if you want your security deposit back,” says Reiss. “It’s important to add details like time stamps to everything and get documentation that your landlord received the report.”

Also consider recording a video with your smartphone while you walk through the place. The more backup material you have, the better the odds that you’ll get back what you deserve.

Your pet or your pad

“A few years ago, my family and I rented a townhouse. There was a pet shop on the corner selling the cutest puppies, and we fell in love with a French bulldog and bought him. That’s when things started to get ugly. We hadn’t checked the rental agreement to see if we could own a pet. When our landlord found out, she became hysterical and asked us to leave—or get rid of the dog. We ended up homeless, but with a very cute puppy. Fortunately, we stayed at a friend’s place until we found a dog-friendly home.” – Derek McLane, Sydney, Australia

Lesson learned: “Read the fine print before you sign. This is pretty fundamental, even if it is not fun to do,” says Reiss.

At the very least, ask your landlord what the rules are and to specify where the pertinent parts can be found in the lease. Be aware that many leases don’t allow pets, or will make pet owners pay an extra fee known as pet rent.

You’ve got mail … a mile away

“I was living in an amazing apartment when the mailboxes in the foyer were vandalized to the point where the USPS deemed them ‘unsafe for delivery of mail.’ We were ‘temporarily’ redirected to pick up mail six blocks up and four very long avenue blocks over until the landlords had an opportunity to repair our mailboxes. A year and a half later, they still hadn’t been fixed—and to make matters worse, a stairwell skylight had collapsed. I was forced to take on the practically full-time job of challenging my landlord to make repairs. I finally was able to make something happen by researching the building and finding out that my landlord had illegally jacked up the rent more than was legally allowed by rent-stabilization laws. Eventually, my efforts resulted in a rent reduction, reinstated mail delivery, and a very bad tenant/landlord relationship.” – Tim Tucker, Las Vegas, NV

Lesson learned: “Know your rights. Tenants have a lot of them, particularly in rent-regulated apartments,” says Reiss.

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April 27, 2017

Community Bankers and GSE Reform

By David Reiss

The Independent Community Bankers of America have release ICBA Principles for GSE Reform and a Way Forward. Although this paper is not as well thought-out as that of the Mortgage Bankers Association, it is worth a look in order to understand what drives community bankers.

The paper states that the smaller community banks

depend on the GSEs for direct access to the secondary market without having to sell their loans through a larger financial institution that competes with them. The GSEs help support the community bank business model of good local service by allowing them to retain the servicing on the loans they sell, which helps keep delinquencies and foreclosures low. And unlike other private investors or aggregators, the GSEs have a mandate to serve all markets at all times. This they have done, in contrast to some private investors and aggregators that severely curtailed their business in smaller and economically distressed markets, leaving those community bank sellers to find other outlets for their loan sales. (1)

The ICBA sets forth a set of principles to guide GSE reform, including

  • The GSEs must be allowed to rebuild their capital buffers.
  • Lenders should have competitive, equal, direct access on a single-
    loan basis.
  • Capital, liquidity, and reliability are essential.
  • Credit risk transfers must meet targeted economic returns.
  • An explicit government guarantee on GSE MBS is needed.
  • The TBA market for GSE MBS must be preserved.
  • Strong oversight from a single regulator will promote sound operation.
  • Originators must have the option to retain servicing, and servicing fees must be reasonable.
  • Complexity should not force consolidation.
  • GSE assets must not be sold or transferred to the private market.
  • The purpose and activities of the GSEs should be appropriately limited.
  • GSE shareholder rights must be upheld.

This paper does not really provide a path forward for GSE reform, but it does clearly state the needs of community bankers. That is valuable in itself. There is also a lot of common sense behind the principles they espouse. But it is a pretty conservative document, working from the premise that the current system is pretty good so if it ain’t broke, why fix it? I think other stakeholders believe the system is way more broke than community bankers believe it to be.

There are also some puzzlers in it this paper. Why the focus on GSE shareholder rights? Is it because many community banks held GSE stock before the financial crisis? Are there other reasons that this is one of their main principles?

Hopefully, over time community bankers will flesh out the thinking that went into this paper in order to fuel an informed debate on the future of the housing finance market.

 

 

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April 26, 2017

Comparison Shopping Savings in Mortgage Market

By David Reiss

Alexei Alexandrov and Sergei Koulayev of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have posted a working paper, No Shopping in the U.S. Mortgage Market: Direct and Strategic Effects of Providing Information to SSRN. The paper is the first to answer the question, “How much do consumers lose by not shopping enough for mortgages?” (5) They find that “for the average consumer, the the difference between the actual and the lowest offered rate amounted to an extra $300 per year.” (Id.)

The abstract reads,

We document and analyze price dispersion in the U.S. mortgage market. We find significant price dispersion in posted prices in the retail channel: for example, a consumer with a prime credit score and with a 20% down payment might see a spread in interest rates of 50 basis points, controlling for all relevant consumer/property characteristics, including discount points. We also show, from survey evidence, that close to half of consumers did not shop before taking out a mortgage, and worse, many consumers do not seem to realize that there is price dispersion. Using a proprietary dataset of lenders’ ratesheets, we estimate an equilibrium model of costly search where a share of consumers holds incorrect beliefs regarding price dispersion. Whereas high search costs is one reason behind the lack of search, we show that non-price preferences also play an important role in preventing consumers from searching more; and so an effective policy would target both. In one of our counterfactuals, we show that eliminating non-price preferences results in savings of about $9 billion dollars a year.

In addition to its significant finding on a new topic (one that should have policy implications for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), the paper also demonstrates the value of government research on the mortgage markets.

The paper relies on data from the National Survey of Mortgage Originations. The NSMO is a survey designed by the CFPB and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.  It is sent out on a quarterly basis to a nationally representative sample of recent mortgage borrowers. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has introduced legislation to stop the CFPB from conducting research on the mortgage markets. That would be a bad result for consumers.

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April 26, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments