REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

December 16, 2016

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Robert Engelke

  • Yesterday the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released its final “Duty to Serve” rule, which requires Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support certain segments of the mortgage market that are traditionally underserved by private investors.
  • U.S. homebuilders’ confidence soared this month to the highest level in 11 years, reflecting heightened expectations of better sales now and well into 2017. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday jumped seven points to 70. The last time the reading was at this level was July 2005, during the high-flying days of the last U.S. housing boom.
  • In a statement released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve, the FOMC voted unanimously to raise the target range for the federal funds rate from 0.5% to 0.75%, effective Dec. 15, 2016.

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December 16, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

December 15, 2016

Fannie/Freddie Scorecard

By David Reiss

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The Federal Housing Finance Agency released its 2017 Scorecard for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Common Securitization Solutions.  The scorecard highlights how the FHFA’s reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is proceeding apace, absent direction from Congress.  This reform path had been set by Acting Director DeMarco, appointed by President Bush, and has continued relatively unchanged under Director Watt, appointed by President Obama.

The scorecard’s assessment criteria for the two companies are,

  • The extent to which each Enterprise conducts initiatives in a safe and sound manner consistent with FHFA’s expectations for all activities;
  • The extent to which the outcomes of their activities support a competitive and resilient secondary mortgage market to support homeowners and renters;
  • The extent to which each Enterprise conducts initiatives with consideration for diversity and inclusion consistent with FHFA’s expectations for all activities;
  • Cooperation and collaboration with FHFA, each other, the industry, and other stakeholders; and
  • The quality, thoroughness, creativity, effectiveness, and timeliness of their work products. (2)

The scorecard states that Fannie and Freddie should increase credit risk transfers to investors.  Currently, the focus is on transferring risk from pretty safe and standard mortgages, but the FHFA is pushing Fannie and Freddie to increase risk transfers on a broader array of mortgage types.

The scorecard also states that the effort to integrate Fannie and Freddie through the Common Securitization Platform and the Single Security should continue so that the Single Security is operational in 2018.  The scorecard emphasizes that the Platform should allow “for the integration of additional market participants in the future.” (6)  While this has been a design requirement from the get-go, I have heard through the grapevine that this element of the Platform has not been pursued so vigorously.  To my mind, it seems like a key component if we want to build the infrastructure for a healthy secondary mortgage market for the rest of the 21st century.

 

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December 15, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Robert Engelke

  • A report titled, Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population, discusses how by 2035, more than one in five people in the US will be aged 65 and older and one in three households will be headed by someone in that age group. This growth will increase the demand for affordable, accessible housing that is well connected to services far beyond what current supply can meet.
  • Following the rise and fall in the homeownership rate over the past two decades, considerable uncertainty exists about the homeownership rate’s future trajectory. In a new working paper, the author presents three plausible scenarios and examine the implications of different homeownership rate outcomes for future growth in the number of homeowner and renter households.
  • This paper, titled Monetary Policy and Regional House-Price Appreciation, examines the link between monetary policy and house-price appreciation by exploiting the fact that monetary policy is set at the national level, but has different effects on state-level activity in the United States. This differential impact of monetary policy provides an exogenous source of variation that can be used to assess the effect of monetary policy on state-level housing prices.

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December 15, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

December 14, 2016

Mortgage Broker v. Loan Officer

By David Reiss

photo by http://401kcalculator.org

MagnifyMoney.com quoted me in Mortgage Broker vs. Loan Officer: The Best Way to Shop for a Mortgage (must scroll down). It opens,

When you need to take out a loan to buy a home, you generally have two options. You can work with a lender’s loan officer or hire a mortgage broker. Loan officers and mortgage brokers are not the same thing, although the terms are often used interchangeably.

Loan officers work for a bank or a lender and will only be able to show you mortgage options from that financial institution. In contrast, mortgage brokers are individuals or firms that are licensed by a state to act as middlemen between you and multiple banks or mortgage lenders. Because brokers aren’t beholden to a particular lender, they can shop around and try to find you a loan with terms that best fit your circumstances.

Why should you consider working with a mortgage broker?

One of the biggest benefits to working with a mortgage broker is that they take over the job of shopping for a loan. You might be able to do this on your own, and in some cases, you could find a better loan than the broker, but it can be a time-consuming and complicated process.

A broker can help collect and organize the documents you need to apply for a mortgage, such as your proof of employment and income, tax returns, a list of your assets and debts, and credit reports and scores. The broker can then use the information to look for loans, compare rates and terms, and apply for mortgages on your behalf.

Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage,” says one of the big benefits is that brokers are generally “on your side,” while a loan officer represents the lender’s interest. Brokers are also incentivized to find you a loan that meets your needs and see the deal through closing because they don’t get paid until you close on the home.

Additionally, brokers might have access to lenders that don’t work directly with consumers, meaning you wouldn’t be able to get a loan from the lender even if you tried. And in some cases, brokers can leverage their relationship with a lender to get it to waive fees you’d otherwise have to pay.

Are there risks involved with using a mortgage broker?

While working with a broker could be a good idea, there are potential drawbacks to consider. “Not all brokers are created equal,” says Fleming. “Many have only a few sources for loans, and may not be able to find the best pricing.” There are also some mortgage lenders that don’t work with brokers and will only offer loans directly to consumers (through one of the lender’s loan officers).

Using a mortgage broker can also be expensive. Although you may find the services are worth paying for, consider the costs of using a broker:

Mortgage broker fees

Mortgage brokers are often paid in one of two ways. You may be able to choose how you’d like to pay the broker, or opt for both payment methods.

Some mortgage brokers will charge you a commission based on the loan you take out, often about 1% of the loan. For example, that’s a $3,000 fee on a $300,000 mortgage loan. You’ll pay this fee as part of your closing costs when you close on the home.

Other brokers may offer you a fee-free mortgage. However, what likely happens in this case is that the mortgage broker arranges a loan with a higher interest rate, leaving room for the lender to give the broker a cut. This route could cost you more over the lifetime of the loan but might be the better option if you want to minimize costs now.

Where to find a good mortgage broker

“Word of mouth is very useful when it comes to finding a good [mortgage broker],” according to Professor David Reiss, a real estate law professor at the Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, N.Y. You could ask friends or family members who’ve recently bought a home if they used a mortgage broker, as well as your real estate agent if he or she can recommend a broker.

However, don’t settle for the first recommendation you receive. The Federal Trade Commission recommends interviewing several brokers and trying to find one who’ll be a good fit for your home search.

Ask about their experience with buyers like you in the area, the fees they charge, and how many lenders they work with. “You want to know whether the mortgage broker can find competitive mortgage products, is well organized so that loans close in a timely manner, and whether it keeps away from bait-and-switch tactics that can be so difficult to deal with when buying a home,” says Reiss.

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December 14, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Robert Engelke

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December 13, 2016

Retired With A Mortgage

By David Reiss

photo by Katina Rogers

U.S. News & World Report quoted me in Rethinking a Mortgage While Retired. It opens,

It’s one of the cardinal rules of retirement planning: pay off the mortgage before quitting work. Giving up your income while still supporting a big debt can mean chewing away at your retirement savings way too fast, and can leave you in a tight spot if something goes wrong.

But paying off a mortgage years early is easier said than done, and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College says way too many pre-retirees are too far behind schedule, largely because of borrowing before the housing bust and financial crisis.

On the other hand, some experts say carrying low-interest debt into retirement is not always such a bad thing, especially if it means leaving money in investments that perform well.

“In 2013, almost 40 percent of all households ages 55 and over had not paid off their mortgages, up from 32 percent in 2001,” the Center reports, citing a study using data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances in 2013. “These borrowers were also carrying a lot more housing debt by 2013.”

“I’ve been advising clients for over 20 years and on just an anecdotal level, I can tell you that more clients are retiring with mortgage balances than in years past,” says Margaret R. McDowell, founder of Arbor Wealth Management in Miramar Beach, Florida.

A.W. Pickel III, president of the Midwest division of AmCap Mortgage in Overland Park, Kansas, says many baby boomers traded up as their families grew, then took second mortgages to help fund college costs.

In the years before 2008, homeowners were encouraged to take out big loans when home values appeared to be soaring, the center says. They bought expensive homes or tapped home value through cash-out refinancing or home equity loans, it says.

When home prices collapsed, millions were left “underwater” – owing more than their homes were worth – and were unable to get out from under because they could not sell for enough to pay off their loan. McDowell believes many homeowners also concluded their home was not the rock-solid asset they’d thought, so they felt it unwise to pour more money into it by paying down the mortgage early.

So many just hung in there. By taking on too much debt, and monthly payments so large they could not afford extra payments to bring it down, they left themselves with too much debt too late in the game.

The center says “that 51.6 percent of working-age households were at risk of having a lower standard of living in retirement,” largely because of mortgage debt.

“In recent years, U.S. house prices have started to really improve, to the benefit of homeowners and retirees,” the center says. “But it’s difficult to predict whether the other factor that has reduced retirement preparedness – more older households with big housing debts – was a boom-time phenomenon or represents the new normal.”

But is the situation really as dire as it seems? David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School in New York City, thinks it may not be.

“According to the National Association of Realtors, the median sales price of an existing home increased from $197,100 in 2013 to $232,200 in October of 2016,” he says. “That is a roughly 15 percent price increase and about $40,000 of additional equity for the owner of the median home.”

Many homeowners who were underwater may not be any longer.

Also, he adds, it’s not necessary to be absolutely debt free at retirement so long as income is large enough to cover expenses and leave a cushion.

“Often, paying off a mortgage gets a retiree where he or she needs to be in terms of that balance, but it is not always necessary,” he says.

The key, he says, is to not be underwater. Once the remaining debt is smaller than the home value, the homeowner is better able to sell. One option is downsizing, selling the current home, then using cash from the sale or a new, smaller mortgage to buy a cheaper home. A less expensive home will also likely have lower property taxes and maintenance costs.

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December 13, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Robert Engelke

  • According to an announcement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the government is granting more than $132 million total to neighborhoods in Boston, Denver, St. Louis, Louisville, and Camden as part of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.
  • Mark Lamster, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design studying urban planning, wrote an open letter to Carson on how to solve the housing crisis in The Dallas Morning News.
  • Freddie Mac is now rolling out a pilot program that matches nonprofits with socially conscious investors.

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December 13, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments