REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

November 14, 2016

The Housing Market Under Trump

By David Reiss

photo by http://401kcalculator.org

TheStreet.com quoted me in Interest Rates Likely to Rise Under Trump, Could Affect Confidence of Homebuyers. It opens,

Interest rates should increase gradually during the next four years under a Donald Trump administration, which could dampen growth in the housing industry, economists and housing experts predict.

The 10-year Treasury rose over the 2% threshold on Wednesday for the first time in several months, driving mortgage rates higher with the 30-year conventional rate rising to 3.73% according to Bankrate.com. Mortgage pricing is tied to the 10-year Treasury.

Housing demand will remain flat with a rise in interest rates as many first-time homebuyers will be saddled with more debt, said Peter Nigro, a finance professor at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

“With first-time homebuyers more in debt due to student loans, I don’t expect much growth in home purchasing,” he said.

Interest rates will also be affected by the size of the fiscal stimulus since additional infrastructure spending and associated debt “could push interest rates up through the issuance of more government debt,” Nigro said.

Even if interest rates spike in the next year, banks will not benefit, because there is a lack of demand, said Peter Borish, chief strategist with Quad Group, a New York-based financial firm. The economy is slowing down, and consumers have already borrowed money at very “cheap” interest rates, he said.

The policies set forth by a Trump administration will lead to contractionary results and will not spur additional growth in the housing market.

“I prefer to listen to the markets,” Borish said. “This will put downward pressure on the prices in the market. Everyone complained about Dodd-Frank, but why is JPMorgan Chase’s stock at all time highs?”

An interest rate increase could still occur in December, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based real estate company. With nearly five weeks before the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the market can contemplate the potential outcomes.

“While the market is now indicating a reduced probability of a short-term rate hike at that meeting, the Fed has repeatedly indicated that they would be data-driven in their decision,” he said in a written statement. “If the markets calm down and November employment data look solid on December 2, a rate hike could still happen. The market moves yesterday are already indicating that financial markets are pondering that the Trump effect could be positive for the economy.

“The Fed is likely to start increasing the federal funds rate at a “much faster pace starting next year,” said K.C. Sanjay, chief economist for Axiometrics, a Dallas-based apartment market and student housing research firm. “This will cause single-family mortgage rates to increase slightly, however they will remain well below the long-term average.”

Since Trump has remained mum on many topics, including housing, predicting a short-term outlook is challenging. One key factor is the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who are the main players in the mortgage market, because they own or guarantee over $4 trillion in mortgages, remain in conservatorship and “play a critical role in keeping mortgage rates down through the now explicit subsidy or government backing which allows them to raise funds more cheaply,” Nigro said.

It is unlikely any changes will occur with them, because “Trump has not articulated a plan to deal with them and coming up with a plan to deal with these giants is unlikely,” he said.

Trump could attempt to take on government sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist for Trulia, a San Francisco-based real estate website.

“If he does, it’s going to be a hairy endeavor for him, because he’ll need bipartisan support to do so,” he said.

Since he has alluded to ending government conservatorship and allowing government sponsored enterprises to “recapitalize by allowing retention of their own profits instead of passing them on to the Treasury,” the result is that banks could have their liquidity and lending activity increase, which could help boost demand for homes, McLaughlin said.

“We caution President-elect Trump that he would also need to simultaneously help address housing supply, which has been at a low point over the past few years,” he said. “The difficulty for him is that most of the impediments to new housing supply rest and the state and local levels, not the federal.”

Even on Trump’s campaign website, there is “next to nothing” about his ideas on housing, said David Reiss, a law professor at the Brooklyn Law School in New York. The platform of the Republican Party and Vice President-elect Mike Pence could mean that the federal government will have a smaller footprint in the mortgage market.

“There will be a reduction in the federal government’s guaranty of mortgages, and this will likely increase the interest rates charged on mortgages, but will reduce the likelihood of taxpayer bailouts,” he said. “Fannie and Freddie will likely have fewer ties to the federal government and the FHA is likely to be limited to the lower end of the mortgage market.”

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November 14, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Robert Engelke

  • A Texas federal judge on Wednesday issued tailored sanctions against American Realty Investors Inc. in a $63 million real estate suit over a deposition for which the company’s vice president was not adequately prepared and company counsel allegedly objected hundreds of times
  • Fannie Mae and a bankrupt homeowner sparred over standing in a suit alleging the mortgage lender illegally got its hands on personal credit reports, as both sides made their case in Virginia federal court on Thursday as to whether the mortgage lender caused harm
  • Royal Park Investments’ $6.7 billion proposed class action alleging U.S. Bank failed to warn investors about soured residential mortgage-backed securities may be dismissed eventually, but it isn’t over yet, a New York federal judge ruled Wednesday in a fight over missing evidence.
  • PHH has agreed to pay $28 million to end claims brought by New York financial services regulators accusing the mortgage services provider of running afoul of state and federal laws protecting homeowners, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced Wednesday.

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November 14, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

November 11, 2016

Surveying Mortgage Originations, Going Forward

By David Reiss

survey-1594962_1280

REFinBlog has been nominated for the second year in a row for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition in the Education Category.  Please vote here if you like what you read.

As I had earlier noted, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has issued a request for comments on the National Survey of Mortgage Originations (NSMO).  The NSMO is “a recurring quarterly survey of individuals who have recently obtained a loan secured by a first mortgage on single-family residential property.” (81 F.R. 62889) I submitted my comment, written in the context of the newly-elected Trump Administration. It reads, in part,

I write to support this proposed collection, but also to raise some concerns about its efficacy.

The NSMO is very important to the health of the mortgage market.  We need only look at the Subprime Boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s to see why this is true:  subprime mortgages went from “making up a tiny portion of new mortgage originations in the early 1990s” to  “40 percent of newly originated securitized mortgages in 2006.” David Reiss, Regulation of Subprime and Predatory Lending, International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home (2010). During the Boom, subprime lenders like Countrywide changed mortgage characteristics so quickly that information about new originations became outdated within months.See generally Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Financial Crisis Inquiry Report 105 (2011) (“Countrywide was not unique: Ameriquest, New Century, Washington Mutual, and others all pursued loans as aggressively. They competed by originating types of mortgages created years before as niche products, but now transformed into riskier, mass-market versions”) Policymakers and academics did not have good access to the newest data and thus were operating, to a large extent, in the dark.  The information in the NSMO will therefore not only help regulators, but will also assist outside researchers to “more effectively monitor emerging trends in the mortgage origination process . . ..” (81 F.R. 62890)

*     *    *

there is no question that this “collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FHFA functions . . ..” (81 F.R. 62890) Given the likely changes to the federal role in the mortgage markets over the next four years, the NSMO can provide critical insight into whether homeowners feel that that market serves their needs.

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November 11, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development is finding innovative methods to ensure that Public Housing Authorities are obliging to all fair housing, civil rights, and relocation requirements as listed in the Rental Assistance Demonstration.
  • The federal government is spending money to help American citizens obtain rental housing and homes; however, a recent study showed that the American citizens with the most need do not receive this needed assistance.
  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office completed a four year study regarding mortgage-backed securities. The office found nine violations by fellow government agencies.

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Leading The Armed Forces

By David Reiss

photo by Walter Maderbacher

Xenophon of Athens was a soldier in a military campaign in Persia over two thousand years ago that he recounted in Anabasis (“An Ascent”), also known as The Persian Expedition. He writes,

There is small risk a general will be regarded with contempt by those he leads, if, whatever he may have to preach, he shows himself best able to perform.

A thought for forthcoming Veterans Days.

 

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November 11, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

November 10, 2016

Home Mis-Inspector

By David Reiss

photo by Mark Moz

REFinBlog has been nominated for the second year in a row for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition in the Education Category.  Please vote here if you like what you read.

Realtor.com quoted me in Yikes! What If Your Home Inspector Missed Something Huge? It opens,

Your offer has been accepted, and there’s just one more obstacle between you and your new home: the inspection. It can be a stressful event for both buyers and sellers as they wait for the report, hoping no major issues will surface that could sideline the deal.

But what if you make it through that day, let out a big sigh of relief, seal the deal, and then a few weeks or months later find an issue in your new home—a bat infestation, a leaky roof, a CDC-level mold problem—that the home inspector didn’t catch? Just how much peace of mind does a home inspection really buy you?

Find out how you can protect yourself.

Sadly, there’s no insurance home buyers can take out to protect themselves from a faulty inspection. As such, the most important step home buyers can take to prevent that scenario is to select a reputable inspection company.

Make sure you choose a firm that has been in the residential inspection business for a while and has a strong reputation (real estate agents and lenders often have recommendations).

But most important, your home inspector should have adequate insurance.

Keith Balsiger, president of Balsiger Insurance in Las Vegas, says buyers should ask for a current certificate of insurance that shows the inspection company has both general liability insurance and professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance). This is what would potentially cover you as a buyer if there was a major “miss” on the part of the inspection.

If you want to be extra safe, you can call the insurance agency of the inspection company to confirm the coverage on the certificate is still valid.

You also want to closely examine the terms of the liability insurance. David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, says some contracts will state that the company is liable only for the cost of the inspection, which won’t be much solace if you find yourself on the hook for repairs that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Ideally, you would not want there to be any limit on the inspector’s liability in case he or she was negligent in doing the inspection,” says Reiss. At the very least, make sure the limit exceeds the cost of the inspection alone.

Why buyers should attend the home inspection

As an added safeguard, buyers should be physically present during the inspection. If an inspector balks at this idea, that’s a red flag. Make sure to find out what is covered by the inspection, and if there’s anything you want the inspector to scrutinize in particular (say, you know the boiler is old or the basement has water stains, suggesting flooding issues), state that upfront.

“It’s a buyer’s job to make the most of the home inspection,” says Bryant Dunivan Jr., a real estate and consumer protection attorney in Brandon, FL. Here are some things to watch for during the inspection:

  • The inspector is working off a checklist of items that was in the contract.
  • Major systems (air conditioning, heating, water, etc.) are tested.
  • The inspector actually enters attic and crawl spaces.
  • A report complete with pictures is provided.

What to look out for in a home inspection

Robert Pellegrini Jr., president of PK Boston, a real estate law firm based in Boston, says a typical red flag disclaimer on the inspection report is a statement that there was a problem with “access” to roofs, eaves, and areas behind locked or blocked doors or crawl spaces.

“That serves to absolve the inspector of any liability,” Pellegrini says.

Urge the home seller to remove all barriers that might prevent an inspector from doing a thorough job. Some home buyers even take the process into their own hands and hire drones or robots to view inaccessible areas.

Uh-oh! You’ve closed, but there’s a problem

No matter how many precautions you take, the nightmare scenario does happen: You move in and then discover a problem. A big one. Can you bring it up with the seller? After all, sellers are required to disclose any known issues about the home.

Well, here’s the rub: Proving the seller knew about something after the fact is nearly impossible, and the legal cost involved in trying to prove it is often too steep to make an attempt.

Which brings us back to the home inspector. If you encounter a problem, bring it up with your inspector. As long as you used one with decent liability insurance that covers more than just the cost of the inspection, odds are decent you’ll be compensated for any damages. Again, you’ll have to prove it. For example, if the inspector said the roof was in good condition, but there was a leak months later during a big storm, you would have to prove that nothing happened in the intervening time that damaged the roof.

“Bottom line: You would probably need pretty clear facts on your side to win,” Reiss says.

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November 10, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Jamila Moore

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November 10, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments