REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 9, 2017

The FHA Rollback’s Impact on Homebuyers

By David Reiss

MortgageLoan.com quoted me in How Will Killing FHA Insurance Rollback Affect Borrowers? It opens,

Less than an hour after being sworn in as president, Donald Trump signed his first executive order, eliminating a drop in FHA mortgage insurance premiums that was to take effect a week later.

If the rate reduction had stayed in place, the average borrower with a $200,000 mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration would have had their mortgage insurance drop by about $500 per year.

The National Association of Realtors estimates that 750,000 to 850,000 homebuyers will face higher costs, and 30,000 to 40,000 new homebuyers will be left on the sidelines in 2017 without the cut.

The FHA doesn’t issue home loans, but insures mortgages and collects fees from borrowers to pay lenders if a homeowner defaults on the loan. The FHA guarantees about 18 percent of all mortgages across the country.

They’re most often used by lower-income, first-time homebuyers, sometimes with low credit scores. The FHA-backed loans require low down payments of 3.5 percent, and allow people with high debt ratios to buy a home.

With mortgage rates rising recently, the Obama administration announced on Jan. 9 a reduction in annual premiums for mortgage insurance for FHA loans from 0.85 percent to 0.60 percent of the loan balance, effective Jan. 27. The premiums are paid monthly.

Some Buyers Lower Expectations

The quarter of a percentage point drop didn’t go into effect because Trump ordered it eliminated. Still, some FHA borrowers were expecting the price drop and budgeting for it in the homes they shopped for, says Joseph Murphy, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent in Bradenton, FL.

Murphy says he’s had a few FHA clients lower their purchasing power with the elimination of the mortgage insurance cut, with one pulling out of buying a $135,000 home and instead dropping down to a $125,000 home because the FHA policy wasn’t changed to give them more money. Another client had to drop from a $200,000 home to a $190,000 one, he says.

“It’s not a big difference,” Murphy says. “But it’s enough of a difference. It’s demoralizing for some customers.”

In some neighborhoods he works with, it’s the difference between a barely hospitable home and a home in a better area.

Impact Disputed

It’s incorrect to say that Trump’s order raised mortgage bills, because it hadn’t taken effect yet anyway when the new president signed it, says Robyn Porter, a Realtor at W.C. & A.N. Miller in Bethesda, Md.

“The FHA insurance rate cut that was recently eliminated should have no impact on buyers,” Porter says. “In fact, the current insurance rates were established under the Obama administration and were the highest rates in more than 10 years.

“So, when Trump eliminated the reduction, they were simply put back to the same rate they had been for years ever since the Obama administration added them in,” she says.

Borrowers with low incomes, middle-of-the-road credit scores or have less than a 20 percent down payment are the main users of FHA loans. “These are typically more at-risk buyers for default,” Murphy says.

“Anything that makes access to money more expensive is going to have an impact, especially for fringe buyers,” he says.

Wealthier buyers either don’t qualify for the program or can bet a better loan rate on a conventional loan if they have good credit.

While it’s a great program for people who need it, not getting a $500 or so cut in FHA mortgage insurance shouldn’t affect buyers, Porter says.

“This is not going to deter somebody from buying a house,” she says.

Not getting a monthly mortgage insurance break of $50 or so per month shouldn’t be the difference in buying a home, she says.

“If that is going to break your bank, you shouldn’t be buying a home,” Porter says.

The overall impact may not be much, but even keeping the FHA rates where they were tends to make borrowing more expensive, increase housing prices and could drive some people away from buying a home, says David Reiss, who teaches about residential real estate at Brooklyn Law School.

“Everything has a marginal impact,” Reiss says.

“The more general point, though, is that FHA premiums have gone up significantly since the beginning of the financial crisis,” he says. “The Trump administration will need to think through the extent to which it wants to support homeownership and how it would do so.”

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February 9, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • President Trump is working hard to ensure that big businesses in America receive financial breaks; however, he is not considering the impact of his decisions on all other industries.  Currently, corporations pay a 35% tax rate. President Trump would like to reduce this rate to as low as 15%. If successful in the reduction, this could lead to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needing support similar to their needs in the financial crisis of the early 2000s.
  • New residential development is not exciting to homeowners and renters in metro areas. Homeowners and renters alike are displeased because the price of housing has doubled in some of the country’s most populated areas. Michael Hankinson Meyer explains the effects and outcomes of residential development since the 1970s in a report.

 

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February 9, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 8, 2017

Who’s a Predatory Lender?

By David Reiss

photo by Taber Andrew Bain

US News & World Report quoted me in 5 Clues That You’re Dealing with a Predatory Lender.  It opens,

Consumers are often told to stay away from predatory lenders, but the problem with that advice is a predatory lender doesn’t advertise itself as such.

Fortunately, if you’re on guard, you should be able to spot the signs that will let you know a loan is bad news. If you’re afraid you’re about to sign your life away on a dotted line, watch for these clues first.

You’re being offered credit, even though your credit score and history are terrible. This is probably the biggest red flag there is, according to John Breyault, the vice president for public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, a private nonprofit advocacy group in the District of Columbia.

“A lender is in business because they think they’re going to get paid back,” Breyault says. “So if they aren’t checking to see if you have the ability to pay them back, by doing a credit check, then they’re planning on getting their bank through a different way, like offering a high fee for the loan and setting it up in a way that locks you into a cycle of debt that is very difficult to get out of.”

But, of course, as big of a clue as this is to stay away, it can be hard to listen to your inner voice of reason. After all, if nowhere else will give you a loan, you may decide to work with the predatory lender anyway. That’s why many industry experts feel that even if a bad loan is transparent about how bad it is, it probably shouldn’t exist. After all, only consumers who are desperate for cash are likely to take a gamble that they can pay back a loan with 200 percent interest – and get through it unscathed.

Your loan has an insanely high interest rate. Most states have usury laws preventing interest rates from going into that 200 APR territory, but the laws are generally weak, industry experts say, and lenders get around them all the time. So you can’t assume an interest rate that seems really high is considered normal or even within the parameters of the law. After all, attorney generals successfully sue payday loan services and other lending companies fairly frequently. For instance, in January of this year, it was announced that after the District of Columbia attorney general sued the lending company CashCall, they settled for millions of dollars. According to media reports, CashCall was accused of offering loans with interest rates around 300 percent annually.

The lender is making promises that seem too good to be true. If you’re asking questions and getting answers that are making you sigh with relief, that could be a problem.

Nobody’s suggesting you be a cynic and assume everybody’s out to get you, but you should scrutinize your paperwork, says David Reiss, a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School in New York.

“Often predators will make all sorts of oral promises, but when it comes time to sign on the dotted line, their documents don’t match the promises,” Reiss says.

And if they aren’t in sync, assume the documentation is correct. Do not go with what the lender told you.

“Courts will, in all likelihood, hold you to the promises you made in the signed documents, and your testimony about oral promises probably won’t hold that much water,” Reiss says. ” Read what you are signing and make sure it matches up with your understanding of the transaction.”

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February 8, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 7, 2017

Housing Booms and Busts

By David Reiss

photo by Alex Brogan

Patricia McCoy and Susan Wachter have posted Why Cyclicality Matter to Access to Mortgage Credit to SSRN. The paper is now particularly relevant because of President Trump’s plan to roll back Dodd-Frank’s regulation of the financial markets, including the mortgage market. While McCoy and Wachter do not claim that Dodd-Frank solves the problem of cyclicality in the mortgage market, they do highlight how it reduces some of the worst excesses in that market. They make a persuasive case that more work needs to be done to reduce mortgage market cyclicality.

The abstract reads,

Virtually no attention has been paid to the problem of cyclicality in debates over access to mortgage credit, despite its importance as a driver of tight credit. Housing markets are prone to booms accompanied by bubbles in mortgage credit in which lenders cut underwriting standards, leading to elevated loan defaults. During downturns, these cycles artificially impede access to mortgage credit for underserved communities. During upswings, these cycles make homeownership unnecessarily precarious for many who attain it. This volatility exacerbates wealth and income disparities by ethnicity and race.

The boom-bust cycle must be addressed in order to assure healthy and sustainable access to credit for creditworthy borrowers. While the inherent cyclicality of the housing finance market cannot be fully eliminated, it can be mitigated to some extent. Mitigation is possible because housing market cycles are financed by and fueled by debt. Policymakers have begun to develop a suite of countercyclical tools to help iron out the peaks and troughs of the residential mortgage market. In this article, we discuss why access to credit is intrinsically linked to cyclicality and canvass possible techniques to modulate the extremes in those cycles.

McCoy and Wachter’s conclusions are worth heeding:

If homeownership is to attain solid footing, mitigating the cyclicality in the housing finance system will be imperative. That will require rooting out procyclical practices and requirements that fuel booms and busts. In their place, countercyclical measures must be instituted to modulate the highs and lows in the lending cycle. In the process, the goal is not to maximize homeownership per se; rather, it is to ensure that residential mortgages are made on safe and affordable terms.

*     *     *

Taming procyclicality in industry practices in housing finance is much farther behind and will require significantly more work. There is no easy fix for the procyclical effect of mortgage appraisals because appraisals are based on neighboring comparables. Similarly, procyclicality will require serious attention if the private-label securitization market returns. While the Dodd-Frank Act made modest reforms designed at curbing inflation of credit ratings, the issuer-pays system that drives grade inflation remains in place. Similarly, underpricing the risk of MBS and CDS will continue to be a problem in the absence of an effective short-selling mechanism and the effective identification of market-wide leverage. (34-35)

McCoy and Wachter offer a thoughtful overview of the risks that mortgage market cyclicality poses, but I am not optimistic that it will get a hearing in today’s Washington.  Maybe it will after the next bust.

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February 7, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • Realtors are unhappy with President Trump’s recent decision to eliminate the “FHA mortgage insurance premium cut.” The National Association of Realtors attributes the downward trend of new home buyers to Trump’s recent decision. Furthermore, they believe reinstating the insurance cut would attract over 38,000 new homeowners.
  • Invitation Homes is the United States leading provider for single-family rentals (SFRs). They recently received a 1 billion dollar loan from Fannie Mae. This loan is the government’s first loan of this kind. Laurie Goodman and Karan Kaul, published a report detailing the benefits and drawback to the program and its intended outcomes.
  • Ellie Mae released its latest version of Encompass where it lends its support to construction loans. Ellie Mae explains its detailed plans to better support the entire construction process.

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February 7, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

February 6, 2017

No-Credit-Check Loan Red Flags

By David Reiss

photo by Rutger van Waveren

OppLoan quoted me in 6 No Credit Check Loan Red Flags. It opens,

Welp. A kid just threw a baseball through your window and ran away before you could get his parents’ information. Now you need a loan to fix it. But what if your credit score isn’t exactly a home run? What are you going to do now?

It’s a fact of modern life: a “good” credit score (a FICO score of 680 or higher) can make little financial emergencies like these much more bearable. Unfortunately, just over half of American consumers have weak or bad credit. According to credit expert David Hosterman of Castle and Cooke Mortgage (@CastleandCooke), “Customers with bad credit can have trouble financing a home, renting a home, obtaining credit cards, car loans, student loans, and more.” And it’s not a problem that goes away overnight. Hosterman says rebuilding credit can “sometimes take years to complete.”

So how can people with bad credit get a loan if an urgent need arises? One option is a “no credit check” loan. And if these loans sound too good to be true, it’s because they often are. Many “no credit check” loans are nothing more than financial traps designed to suck away as much of your paycheck as possible. Keep an eye out for these red flags before you end up in a very bad situation.

1. They Don’t Care About Your Income

Lenders see a bad credit rating and take it as a sign that a potential borrower might never pay them back. That’s why a good “no credit check” lender will make sure that you have a source of income—so they know they’ll get their money back eventually.

But not every “no credit check” lender will check your income. So how do they know you’ll pay it back? They don’t. In fact, it’s worse than that. They’re expecting you not to. Because if you can’t pay your loan in time, you’ll be forced to roll it over and pay an additional fee to extend it. These predatory practices are often associated with payday lenders, because you could end up having to turn over your paycheck as soon as you get it to pay back the loan. That doesn’t leave much money for luxuries like rent, so you could find yourself having to take out another loan or pay to extend the first one. This can easily trap you in a dangerous cycle, having to continually rollover your loan without any hope of paying it off. You want to avoid this situation at all costs.

2. Short Payment Terms

Any good lender wants you to have a real shot at actually paying back your loan in full. A bad lender, on the other hand, wants you to be trapped into rolling over your loans so that you can give them money forever. They’ll require you to pay back the entire loan, with interest, after only a few weeks—and sometimes less!

Instead, find a lender that will offer you an installment loan. David Bakke (@YourFinances101), a finance expert at MoneyCrashers.com, says that one of the main benefits of installment loans is that they “usually come with fixed interest rates, meaning that you know what your monthly payment is going to be.” A good “no credit check” lender will be certain that you have a source of income and then work with you to create a repayment plan that you can handle.

3. They Talk About Interest Rates Instead of APR

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate. According to David Reiss (@REFinBlog), a law professor and editor of REFinBlog.com, the APR number shows the total cost of a loan, including fees and interest. Reiss points out that APRs allow potential borrowers to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison between loans. It gives you a full and clear picture of how expensive a loan really is. In other words, it’s a number that many “no credit check” lenders would prefer you never see.

They’d rather show you a basic interest rate, even though federal law requires APRs be used in most cases. Not only can that hide all sorts of fees, but it forces you to do some pretty complex math if you want to actually know how much you’ll be expected to pay. Friends never make friends do complex math problems, so if a lender isn’t talking in terms of APR, they’re likely not your friend.

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February 6, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments