REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

April 14, 2017

Retiree Real Estate Mistakes

By David Reiss

Realtor.com quoted me in 5 Major Mistakes That Retirees Make With Real Estate. It opens,

You’ve worked hard year after grueling year and, finally, retirement is on the horizon. There’s nothing ahead for you but lazy days of relaxation and idle time to pursue those back-burner hobbies. Hey, you’ve earned it!

But if you haven’t planned ahead, those golden years could be full of stress—fraught with unknowns and major decisions to be made. And one of the biggest, most stressful aspects of retirement is, you guessed it, real estate.

Do you downsize? Buy a second property so you can make like snowbirds and fly south for the winter? Keep the home where all your family’s memories were made? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are some general pitfalls to avoid.

Here are five of the biggest real estate mistakes experts see retirees make.

1. Failing to ‘audit’ the situation

It might come as a surprise, but many retirees forget to assess their current real estate situation to make sure it meets their future needs, according to David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School.

“Most people are on autopilot when it comes to their home: ‘It has worked for me up to now, so I assume that it will work for me going forward,’” Reiss says. “The mistake they make is that they do not realize that their future selves are very different from their current selves.

“As we age, our ability to do all sorts of physical things worsen—shoveling, climbing ladders—decreases,” he adds. “So it makes sense to assess your housing situation at regular intervals.”

Even if you plan on keeping your home, there are questions you should ask yourself: Should you make adjustments to your home so you can age in place? Does it make sense to refinance into a 15-year mortgage in order to pay off what you owe more quickly while paying a lower interest rate? Should you access some of the equity that’s built up in the house in order to supplement your retirement income?

“All of these options have pros and cons,” Reiss says. “It’s worth talking them through with someone whose financial judgment you trust.”

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Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Robert Engelke

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April 13, 2017

Fannie + Freddie = Frannie

By David Reiss

The Federal Housing Finance Agency released its 2016 Scorecard Progress Report. It contains some interesting information about the FHFA’s ongoing efforts to reshape Fannie and Freddie notwithstanding the inaction of Congress. These efforts are not broadcast very clearly, but they are documented nonetheless:

Maintaining a high degree of uniformity in the prepayment speeds of the Enterprises’ mortgage-backed securities is important to the success of the Single Security Initiative. Accordingly, the 2016 Scorecard called for the Enterprises to assess new or revised Enterprise programs, policies, and practices for their effect on the cash flows of mortgage-backed securities eligible for financing through TBA market.

In July 2016, FHFA published An Update on Implementation of the Single Security and the Common Securitization Platform (July 2016 Update), which included a description of specific steps FHFA would take and steps FHFA would require the Enterprises to take to ensure the continued convergence of prepayment speeds across the Enterprises’ mortgage-backed securities. The July 2016 Update indicated that each Enterprise would be required to submit for FHFA review any proposed changes the Enterprise believed could have a measureable effect on the prepayment rates and performance of TBA-eligible securities, including its analysis of any effects on prepayment speeds and/or removals of delinquent mortgage loans from securities under a range of scenarios. In addition, FHFA monitors Enterprise programs, policies, and practices that are initially determined to have no significant effect on prepayment rates or security performance and works with the Enterprises to address any unexpected effects as they arise. (25)

While this is all very technical stuff, it boils down to the effort of the FHFA to make Fannie and Freddie’s securities indistinguishable from each other so they can be treated as a Single Security. Once this process is completed, we will enter a new phase for the GSEs. The two companies wont really be competitors, they will be like identical twins.

Senators Corker and Warner are trying to resuscitate a housing finance reform bill, but this administrative reform is proceeding apace through ten years of Congressional inaction. The FHFA’s actions will likely limit the choices that Congress will have in very real ways, assuming Congress can ever get itself to act.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just good to name it for what it is: housing finance reform implemented by an independent agency, not by a democratically elected Congress.

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April 13, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Robert Engelke

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April 12, 2017

Skinny Budget Sucker Punch

By David Reiss

The Waco Tribune-Herald quote me in Cutting Habitat Could Hurt Local Economy. It reads,

Last summer, through a series of tragic events, one of our longtime church members faced the frightening possibility of homelessness. She had lived with her father for more than 50 years and, following his death, she learned of a crippling reverse mortgage on their home. She couldn’t pay off the mortgage and so she had to find a new place to live.

Our congregation sprang into action. More than 50 people contributed to the purchase of a mobile home, but it required extensive remodeling, so several church members worked over 300 hours to make it livable. One handyman devoted about three months to the project full-time.

On Sept. 21, we presented her with the keys to her new home during worship. It was one of the most uplifting moments I’ve had in 23 years of ministry. This congregation-wide labor of love brought us all closer to one another and closer to God. It was a demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ and it was transformative.

Home ownership changes lives and changes communities. I serve as a board member and volunteer for Waco Habitat for Humanity. Since 1986, Waco Habitat has built and sold 168 homes and completed another 414 home repairs and preservation projects. Over the past three decades, the economic impact of all these services exceeds $6.9 million in greater Waco. In a community that generally tracks about 15 percent higher than the state average for poverty rates and 20 percent lower than the state average for home ownership rates, this impact cannot be overstated. It’s transformative as well.

The “skinny budget” unveiled by the Trump administration on March 16 proposes reducing federal spending on housing programs and assistance by 13 percent. Among other cuts, it seeks to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program; Home Investment Partnerships Program; Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program; CDFI fund, which administers the New Market Tax Credit program at Treasury; and entire Corporation for National and Community Service, which implements the AmeriCorps program.

One reason I work with Habitat is because it offers a hand up, not a hand out. If these cuts are approved by Congress, they will devastate Habitat’s ability to offer that hand up. Other local housing agencies and organizations will see a similarly crippling effect.

Fortunately, this is just the first pass of the federal budget, and many members of Congress — including many Republicans — have already voiced opposition to it. For instance, Rep. Hal Rogers said: “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.”

David Reiss, director of academic programs at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship, echoes this. “Terminating these programs out of the blue is like a sucker punch in the gut of countless communities across the country.”

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Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Robert Engelke

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April 11, 2017

What Is a HUD Foreclosure?

By David Reiss

Mike Licht

Realtor.com quoted me in What Is a HUD Foreclosure? A Home That’s Below Market Value. It reads,

“Foreclosure” is a scary word with a simple definition: It’s the process of a lender attempting to recoup the balance owed on a loan after the homeowner fails to pay the mortgage. Mortgage lenders can be banks, private institutions, or the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA is the world’s largest insurer of mortgages; FHA loans are managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. So any foreclosed house that was purchased with an FHA loan is called a HUD foreclosure. But what exactly is a HUD foreclosure?

What is HUD?

HUD is a federal agency with the mission to help low-income and first-time home buyers. Through mortgage assistance and subsidized housing, it helps make the dream of owning a home a reality for many Americans.

A major division of HUD is the FHA, which is the world’s largest insurer of mortgages.

“A HUD foreclosure is the foreclosure of a loan that was insured by the FHA,” says David Reiss, professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship
 at Brooklyn Law School
.

When a homeowner defaults on this government-backed loan, HUD pays off the mortgage and becomes the property’s de facto owner. To recoup financial losses, HUD then puts the house on the market.

The benefit of buying a HUD foreclosure

The upside for bargain home hunters is that HUD-owned properties are usually sold well below market value.

While anyone can buy a HUD home, “the agency has a special program for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel called the Good Neighbor Next Door program,” says Reiss.

This program allows people in those professions to purchase a HUD property at a whooping 50% discount if it’s in a “revitalization area” and the owner occupies it for three years. Revitalization areas are neighborhoods with very low income, low homeownership, or a high concentration of foreclosed homes.

How to buy a HUD foreclosure

HUD foreclosures are not sold in the typical manner, according to Reiss. Instead of open houses and offer letters, he explains, HUD foreclosures are sold through a bidding process that favors owner-occupants (people who actually want to live in the house) over investors by giving them priority in bidding.

Prospective owners working with a real estate agent authorized to sell HUD property submit bids but have no idea what the other bids are. If the property fails to sell to an owner-occupant, the HUD foreclosure is then open to investors.

How to find a HUD foreclosure

According to Reiss, HUD maintains the HUD Home Store, an online database that lists all its foreclosures. And unlike some foreclosed properties that may have liens (a notice attached to your property that means you owe a creditor money), HUD homes are for sale lien-free.

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