Teaching Real Estate Securitization

By U.S. Government Accountability Office from Washington, DC, United States - Figure 1: Securitization of Federally Insured or Guaranteed Mortgages into GinnieMae-Guaranteed MBS, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64986888

Some readers may be interested in a free upcoming program on how to teach real estate securitization.  The program is  co-sponsored by the AALS Real Estate Transactions Section and the New York City Bar Association’s Structured Finance Committee.

You can attend by live stream webcast or in person.  You can attend as much of the program as you have time to attend, and feel free to pop in and out of the webcast.

Law professors and leading practitioners will serve as panelist instructors.  I will be moderating a panel on Servicing & Its Discontents.  It should be a great program for those who teach in this area.

See http://law-u.net/ for the full program and to register or even better, view the PROMOTIONAL VIDEO here.

The Advantages of ARMs

photo by Kathleen Zarubin

The Wall Street Journal quoted me in Why Home Buyers Should Consider Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (behind paywall). It opens,

While many out-of-the-mainstream loans got a black eye in the subprime debacle, today’s versions have been shorn of the toxic features—such as negative amortization and prepayment penalties—that tripped up many borrowers during the housing bubble a decade ago.

Plan to move

Experts say today’s adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, as well as interest-only loans, are especially suitable for borrowers who expect to move before any rate increases can wipe out the savings in the early years. They’re also useful for sophisticated borrowers wrestling with uneven income, borrowers who expect their income to rise, or borrowers who are willing to bet they can invest their mortgage savings for a greater return elsewhere.

“Many of the mortgage products that some may have thought slipped into extinction, such as interest-only loans, do still exist today, but in far less volume” than in the heyday of the subprime era, says Bill Handel, vice president of research and product development at Raddon Financial Group, consultant to the financial-services industry.

Adds David Reiss, a law professor and academic program director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School: “The benefits of non-30-year, fixed-rate mortgages are legion.”

A sweet spot

Many borrowers can find a sweet spot, for example, in the so-called 7/1 adjustable-rate mortgage, which carries a fixed rate for seven years before starting annual adjustments. With a typical rate of 3.75%, the monthly payment on a $300,000 loan would be $1,389, compared with $1,449 for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 4.1%, saving the borrower $5,040 over seven years.

Even if the loan rate then went up, it could take two or three years for higher payments to offset the initial savings, making the mortgage a good choice for a borrower likely to move within 10 years. Once annual adjustments begin, they are generally calculated by adding a fixed margin to a floating rate, such as the London interbank offered rate.

“ARMs are very underutilized,” says Mat Ishbia, president of United Wholesale Mortgage, a lender in Troy, Mich. He expects the 7/1 ARM to account for 15% of new mortgages within the next few years, up from less than 5% today. Historically, ARMs become more popular as interest rates rise, making savings from the loan’s low initial “teaser rate” more attractive, he notes.

Down in ARMs

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TheStreet.com quoted me in Top 5 Lowest 7-Year ARM Rates. It opens,

U.S. mortgage rates have continued to decline in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, low Treasury rates and stagnant economy, giving potential homeowners an opportunity to save money because of the dip.

The current market conditions give homeowners in the U.S. an opportunity to take advantage of the continuation of low mortgage rates since the Federal Reserve has not increased interest rates.

But, how do you snag the absolute lowest rates, especially if you don’t plan on staying in your first home for more than seven years and are learning toward 7/1 adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs)?

The 7-year ARMs are attractive to consumers, especially first-time homebuyers, because the interest rates are lower, helping you save more money each month compared to the traditional 30-year mortgage.

“You get what amounts to a fixed rate mortgage, but at a lower rate than the traditional 30-year fixed,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst of Bankrate, a North Palm Beach, Fla.-based financial content company.

While lower monthly payments are appealing, the interest rates reset after seven years, and it can be difficult to determine how much they will increase.

“If your timetable changes, then you may want to reconsider the loan you have,” he said. “You don’t want to be in the position of facing rising monthly payments that squeeze your budget or jeopardize your ability to afford your own home.”

Consumers on fixed incomes and saddled with student loans and credit card debt might opt for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, because it represents “permanent payment affordability,” McBride said. The principal and interest will never change, because it is a fixed rate and can be easier to budget.

“It may not always be the optimal choice, but it is the safest choice,” he said.

Adjustable rate mortgages can still be beneficial if homeowners take advantage of the savings each month and allocate it towards paying down debt or into an emergency fund.

“Even if you’re still holding the 7-year ARM at the end of seven years, that doesn’t automatically turn it into a bad decision,” McBride said. “You will have banked seven years of savings relative to the fixed rate mortgage that can help you absorb any payment increases until you refinance or sell the home.”

Many consumers gravitate toward the 30-year mortgage, because the payments are stable and have been very low, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based real estate company. Others are seeking the 7-year ARM, because they are more likely to qualify for a mortgage.

Mortgage activity so far in 2016 reveals that only 3% of mortgages have had shorter rate terms, according to Realtor.com’s analysis of purchase mortgage activity. Hybrid term mortgages such as the 7/1 ARM typically increase in share when “mortgage rates rise because the shorter fixed term offers a lower rate, often between 40 and 100 basis points,” he said. “The lower rate translates into a lower payment for the duration of the initial term, which is seven years.”

Each lender utilizes a benchmark such as a the 10-year U.S. Treasury or LIBOR rate and a margin, which is “what is added to the benchmark to determine your new rate,” Smoke said. The loans also have a cap on how high any single rate change can be and also a ceiling on how high the rate can ever be, he said.

At the end of the seven years, homeowners can choose to refinance to a lower fixed rate, but need to budget for the closing costs.

A lower rate upfront can be favorable for younger homeowners, but examining the ceiling rate and how it will impact your monthly payments is crucial.

“A mortgage broker or lender can help you walk through scenarios to determine if your timeline could benefit,” Smoke said. “To help calm any nerves about just how high your payment could go, ask yourself if you are willing to exchange the initial seven year savings for how long you might keep that mortgage after the seven-year period is up.”

Paying the premium for the peace of mind that your payments will remain static means that if interest rates rise several percentages in the next few years, you won’t be faced with having to consider the lower rate options or lower priced homes and/or more money down, he said.

“That’s why hybrids will likely become more popular in the future compared to how little they are used today,” Smoke said.

Since people have a tendency to change homes every seven years on average, a 7/1 ARM could be a good option because the savings can be substantial, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y.

“Even if you are not planning to move now, the future may bring changes such as divorce, frail relatives, job loss or new job opportunities,” he said. “Some people like the certainty of the 30-year fixed rate mortgages, but it is worth calculating just how much that certainty will cost you.”

Chances of Negative Mortgage Interest Rates

graphic by blamevaraia

TheStreet.com quoted me in Odds of Negative Interest Rates in the U.S. Are Slim. It reads, in part,

The odds of the U.S. lowering interest rates to negative levels remain low, because other forms of monetary policy such as quantitative easing could be adopted first.

The odds of utilizing quantitative easing are “quite high” or policies such as the use of repurchase agreements and the term deposit facility, said Michael Kramer, a portfolio manager on Covestor, the online investing marketplace and founder of Mott Capital Management, a registered investment advisor in Garden City, NY.

Choosing a negative interest rate policy (NIRP) in the U.S. would also affect the stock markets immensely and hinder bank profits.

“Due to the size of treasury and money markets, it could have some very severe ramifications,” he said. “In my view, our treasury markets are the safest and most liquid in the world.”

Investors would seek a higher return on capital elsewhere such as higher paying bonds which carry more risk, Kramer said.

“This could become problematic for the US government which is dependent on issuing debt to fund the government operation,” he said.

Negative rates in the U.S. would result in too much risk and backlash and would only occur if all other attempts by the Fed failed.

“At this point, the Fed has a few other tools it can use before it has to use the tool of last resort,” Kramer said.

The use of negative rates remains divisive despite the growing adoption of them in the central banks of the Eurozone along with Denmark, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland. In countries such as Japan and Germany, investors are forced to pay a fee instead of earning interest.

Lowering current interest rates to negative ones “would not be a panacea,” said former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, now a distinguished fellow in residence at a meeting hosted by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings last week. He also said the effect on consumers would be nominal.

During periods of low inflation, negative interest rates are now a more likely option to policymakers, but they have not proved to be a solution to boosting lackluster economies. The use of negative rates has not proven that they are an effective monetary tool, said Torsten Slok, chief international economist for Deutsche Bank, at the meeting.

Negative rates have produced anxiousness among investors who are seeking greater yield.

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The probability of U.S. banks paying consumers interest on their mortgages even though Danish banks are paying borrowers interest on them remains scant, said David Reiss, a law professor at the Brooklyn Law School. The interest rates of adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) are typically set for the first five or seven year and resets to a new rate. The new interest rate is the combination of an index and a spread with the index often being the London Inter Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which has flirted with 0%.

The majority of ARMs have a clause which limits the amount the interest rate can be changed annually, including ones offered by Fannie Mae.

Rates up in ARMs

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Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building

TheStreet.com quoted me in Fed Hike Means Adjustable Rate Mortgages Will Rise and Increase Monthly Payments. It opens,

The first interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in nearly a decade means consumers can no longer take advantage of a zero interest rate environment. Particularly challenged will be homeowners who have adjustable rates and stand to face higher mortgage payments.

Record low mortgage rates are set to be thing of the past as the Fed raised rates by 0.25%, which appears to be a nominal amount initially. Of course, consumers need to consider the cumulative effect of the central bank’s decision to increase rates periodically over a span of two to three years. The consecutive rate hikes will affect homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages when they reset, which typically happens once a year.

“The initial interest rate move is very modest and consumers will see a corresponding increase in their credit card and home equity line of credit rates within one to two statement cycles,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate, the North Palm Beach, Fla. based financial content company. “The significance is in the potential impact of whatever interest rate hikes are put into effect over the next 18 to 24 months.”

The Fed will continue to raise rates several times next year since yesterday’s move is not a “one and done” move, said Robert Johnson, president of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa. The Fed will likely follow with a series of three to four rate increases in 2016 if the economy continues to improve. The central bank could raise interest rates to a total of 1.0%, which will cause mortgage rates, auto loans and credit card rates to rise in tandem.

Adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, are popular among many younger homeowners, because they typically have lower interest rates than the more common 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Many ARMs are called a 5/1 or 7/1, which means that they are fixed at the introductory interest rate for five or seven years and then readjust every year after that, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y. The new rate is based on an index, such as the prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), as well as a margin on top of that index. LIBOR is used by banks when they are lending money to each other.The prime rate is the interest rate set by individual banks and is usually pegged to the current rate of the federal funds rate, which the Fed increased to 0.25%.

The prime rate is typically used more for home equity lines of credit, said Reiss. LIBOR is typically used more for mortgages like ARMs. The LIBOR “seems to have had already incorporated the Fed’s rate increase as it has gone up 0.20% since early November,” Reiss said.

“The prime rate is influenced by the Fed’s actions,” Reiss said. “We already see that with Wednesday’s announcement that banks are increasing prime to match the Fed’s increase.”

The main disadvantage of an ARM is that the rate is only fixed for a period of five or seven years unlike a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which means that monthly payments could rise quickly and affect homeowners on a tight budget.

Over the course of the next couple of years, the cumulative effect of a series of interest rate hikes could take an adjustable mortgage rate from 3% to 5%, a home equity line of credit rate from 4% to 6% and a credit card rate from 15% to 17%, said McBride.

“This is where the effect on household budgets becomes more pronounced,” he said.

Homeowners should start researching mortgage rates and refinance out of ARMs and lock into a fixed rate, said McBride. The 0.25% rate increase equals to a payment of $0.25 for every $100 of debt.

Since many factors impact the interest rates of mortgages, consumers need to examine the actual benchmark used by their lender since some existing interest rates already priced in some of the anticipated rise in the federal funds rate, said Reiss. While ARMs expose the borrower to rising interest rates, they typically come with some protection. Interest rates often cannot rise more than a certain amount from year to year, and there is also typically a cap in the increase of interest rates over the life of the loan.

An ARM might have a two point cap for one year increases if the introductory rate of 4% increased to 6% in the sixth year of a 5/1 ARM, he said. That ARM might have a six point cap over the life of the loan, which means a 4% introductory rate can go to no higher than 10% over the life of the loan.

 Based upon the current Fed increase of 0.25%, a homeowner with a $200,000 mortgage would pay an additional $40 a month or $500 a year when the rate resets.

“While this is not chump change, it is also not immensely burdensome to many homeowners,” Reiss said. “The bottom line is that it is worth figuring out just how your ARM works so you can understand what your worst case scenario is and then plan for it.”

A Call to ARMs

MainStreet.com quoted me in A Call to ARMs As Homeowners Opt for Lower Interest Rates. It opens,

Some homeowners are choosing adjustable rate mortgages instead of the traditional 30-year mortgages to take advantage of lower interest rates for several years.

The biggest benefit of an ARM is that they have lower interest rates than the more common 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Many ARMs are called a 5/1 or 7/1, which means that they are fixed at the introductory interest rate for five or seven years and then readjust every year after that, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School. The new rate is based on an index, perhaps LIBOR, as well as a margin on top of that index.

The main disadvantage is that the rate is not fixed for as long as the interest rate of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, but younger homeowners may not consider that a negative factor.

Younger Owners Should Consider ARMs

While many homeowners gravitate toward a 30-year mortgage, younger owners “should seriously consider getting an ARM if they think that they might move sooner rather than later,” he said. If you are single and buying a one-bedroom condo, it is likely you could enter into a long-term relationship and have kids.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 3.50% as of April 7 while a 5/1 ARM is 2.83% as of April 7, according to Bankrate’s national survey of large lenders.

While ARMs expose the borrower to rising interest rates, they typically come with some protection. Interest rates often cannot rise more than a certain amount from year to year, and there is also typically a cap in the increase of interest rates over the life of the loan, said Reiss. During the height of the housing boom, lenders were originating 1/1 ARMs that reset after the first year, but now they reset frequently after the fifth and seventh year.

An ARM might have a two-point cap for one-year increases; that means, an introductory rate of 4% could only increase to 6% tops in the sixth year of a 5/1 ARM, Reiss said. That ARM might have a six-point cap over the life of the loan, which means a 4% introductory rate can go to no higher than 10% over the life of the loan.

Reiss on Being Financially Overextended

US News & World Report quoted me in 5 Signs You’re Financially Overextended. It reads in part,

 Are you managing your debt? Or is it managing you? If you’re stuck in a money quicksand trap, you may not even realize at first that you’re in a financial predicament, especially if you’re sinking slowly and have been poorly managing your cash for a long time.

But if you suspect your debt is a disaster in the making, there’s no need to wait and see if your financial life will someday implode. If you’re pushing your finances to the limit, the signs are already there that you’re overextended. Just look for them. And if you spot one, don’t ignore it. Here are five of the biggest clues that trouble is coming.

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5. You’ve created opportunities that could make you overextended. If you have a lot credit cards or lines of credit you rarely use, you could, in theory, end up spending a lot of money and getting yourself into trouble that way, but having those lines open isn’t itself a bad sign. It’s a sign that you have good credit, and your creditors trust you. Still, it’s good to remember that if you aren’t monitoring yourself, you could ultimately max out and find yourself buried in credit card debt.

At least in that scenario, you have control over what may or may not happen. Some homeowners, however, put themselves at risk for becoming overextended when they get an adjustable rate mortgage or a home equity line of credit in which the interest rate “may float with some kind of index like the prime rate or [London Interbank Offered Rate],” says David Reiss, professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, New York.

“So if interest rates rise dramatically, the home equity line of credit can become unaffordable,” he says. “Interest rates have been very low for some time, so homeowners are not focusing on this risk, but if they were to rise – and they can rise suddenly – homeowners may face a rude awakening.”

In which case, you may want to refinance and position yourself to avoid becoming financially overextended if the interest rates someday jump. Because what happens to anything when it’s stretched beyond its limits? It – or you – will snap.