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Archive for the ‘Mortgage Cram-Down’ Category

UPDATE: Mortgage Modifications Leading to Mortgage Cram-Downs

Posted by Larry Doyle on December 11th, 2009 11:38 AM |

Despite overwhelming efforts on the part of Uncle Sam, the simple fact of the matter is the program to successfully and permanently modify mortgages has not gained truly meaningful traction. Public pressure on mortgage servicers specifically and the mortgage modification program at large have generated a slight, but hardly significant, increase in permanent modifications over the last month. Let’s review the statistics provided by Uncle Sam’s Making Home Affordable Program:
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Obama Socialized Housing Policy: If At First You Don’t Succeed . . . Try, Try, Again

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 30th, 2009 4:13 PM |

The fact that the Obama administration is reticent to release data pertaining to completed mortgage modifications speaks volumes as to the lack of success of this initiative. With almost a third of American homeowners now ‘underwater’ on their mortgages, Obama and team are sticking to their game plan to modify mortgages. Details of Obama’s revised game plan can be accessed at MakingHomeAffordable.gov:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today kick off a nationwide campaign to help borrowers who are currently in the trial phase of their modified mortgages under the Obama Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) convert to permanent modifications. The modification program, which has helped over 650,000 borrowers, is part of the Administration’s broader commitment to stabilize housing markets and to provide relief to struggling homeowners and is a primary focus of financial stability efforts moving forward. Roughly 375,000 of the borrowers who have begun trial modifications since the start of the program are scheduled to convert to permanent modifications by the end of the year.

375,000? I will take the under on that. Why? As I highlighted on October 29th in my commentary “Mortgage Modifications: Statistically Insignificant”, up to that point a whopping 1,080 mortgages had been successfully and permanently modified. Policy makers believe 374,000 mortgages will be successfully and permanently modified in the last ten weeks of the year. Who’s zooming who? Would they like to place a wager on that? I’ll give odds. (more…)

Uncle Sam’s New Mousetrap to Stem Foreclosures

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 13th, 2009 2:40 PM |

Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in support of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Association, and mortgage modifications, our housing market continues to be swamped with an ever increasing wave of foreclosures. The shadow supply of homes overhanging the market is estimated to be in the realm of 15 month’s worth.  Last week, I wrote that Washington needed to address this issue in my post  “Washington Needs a New Housing Model.”

Thanks to our friends at 12th Street Capital, we learn today that Treasury will release a new plan next week to stem the wave of foreclosures. How might this work? Let’s navigate a release which came from the Mortgage Banker’s Association convention currently ongoing in San Diego. Housing Wire reports, Treasury to Announce New Program to Avoid Foreclosure:

The United States Department of the Treasury is launching, with an official announcement expected next week, a new program to help ailing borrowers escape foreclosure.

The Chief of the Homeowner Preservation Office at the Treasury, Laurie Maggiano, released information on the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) while speaking at the MBA’s 96th Annual Convention going on in San Diego. The official launch is expected in the next week or so.

HAFA already holds the support of Fannie, according to a VP at the agency, Eric Schuppenhauer, who believes the new program allows borrowers in imminent default to “make a graceful exit” from their home. HAFA will keep the stigma associated with foreclosure away from the borrowers, he added, and help keep communities intact.

Maggiano adds that HAFA will offer financial incentives to both servicers and borrowers, and associated secondary investors, in order to facilitate a short sale or deed in lieu of the property.

Borrowers will need to be Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)-eligible and Maggiano released some stats for the crowd’s consumption. 2,484,783 homeowners have requested information on HAMP. 757,955 HAMP plans were offered. 487,081 trials are underway.

Other additional [1] incentives to the short sale industry are nearly developed. The IRS will soon offer a 4506EZ form that will enable servicers to pre-fill out the information so that it only requires a borrower’s signature. It also will include softer language so as not put potential participants off.

For those unaware, a “short sale” entails a home being sold for less than the balance of the mortgage. The homeowner is not held responsible or liable for making up the difference between the proceeds generated by the sale and the mortgage balance. That difference is eaten by whomever ‘owns’ or is holding the mortgage. The owner or holder could be the originator if that entity never sold the mortgage. The owner or holder could be a trust on behalf of investors if the loan had been securitized.

What is the motivation to promote short sales rather than allowing the foreclosure process to run its course? Short sales may be short in terms of proceeds although they are not necessarily short in terms of time. That said, short sales typically do expedite the sale of a home. Short sales have typically occurred at a 10-20% discount to the market. Why? The homes have not been prepared for sale, meaning ‘dressed up.’

The monetary incentive provided to mortgage servicers to promote short sales will likely have a similar impact as the monetary incentive provided to modify mortgages. What has that impact been? Not much.

While many of Uncle Sam’s programs have been designed to buy time and allow the market and economy to recover, that approach has proven not to work so far in housing. Will this short sale program work to support housing? I doubt it.

I think what this program will look to achieve is to actually lessen the negative stigma associated with the term foreclosure. If Uncle Sam can say foreclosures are declining, he can then wave the flag as making progress on housing.  What he will be doing, however,  is merely ‘redefining’ foreclosure or in other words, ‘putting perfume on a pig.’

This program theoretically will negatively impact bank capital as banks will be forced to take a loss sooner rather than later on those mortgages they hold which are involved in short sales.

Aside from that development, real integrity in this process would include:

>> Add short sales to foreclosures as a more robust measure of housing supply stemming from delinquent mortgages.

>> Assess home prices along with rental rates to measure overall cost of housing.

LD

Housing’s Catch-22

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 12th, 2009 9:28 AM |

What is the optimal policy to deal with our ongoing housing crisis? Should Uncle Sam  continue to throw more money at mortgage modifications? Should banks be compelled to implement a principal reduction program? Should Uncle Sam step in and subsidize the principal writedown involved in a principal reduction program? Would that be the mother of all socialized housing programs? Let’s navigate and address these topics knowing full well that none of these questions have any easy answers.

I witness further evidence again this morning of a continued increase in home foreclosures amidst the prime mortgage space. The Wall Street Journal highlights this ongoing development in writing, Foreclosures Grow in Housing Market’s Top Tiers:

The report shows that foreclosures, after declining earlier this year, began to accelerate in the late spring and that more expensive homes have more recently accounted for a growing share of all foreclosures. “The slope of that curve in recent months is much sharper than it was recently,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for Zillow. Rising foreclosures among more-expensive homes could create added pressure for a housing market that has shown signs of stabilizing in recent months as sales of lower-priced homes pick up.

[Moving Up chart]

Foreclosures are rising in more expensive markets as home values in those areas fall, leaving more homeowners with mortgages that exceed the value of their properties. Prime loans accounted for 58% of foreclosure starts in the second quarter, up from 44% last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Subprime mortgages accounted for one-third of foreclosure starts, down from one-half last year.

The prime category includes so-called exotic mortgages that were increasingly used to buy more expensive homes, including interest-only mortgages that allowed borrowers to defer principal payments during an initial period. Borrowers often aren’t able to refinance out of these products because the drop in home values has left them with little equity in their homes.

Default rates are particularly high and expected to rise on option adjustable-rate mortgages, which allow borrowers to make minimum payments that may not cover the interest due. Monthly payments can increase to sharply higher levels after five years or when the outstanding balance reaches a certain level. A study by Fitch Ratings found that 46% of option ARMs were 30 days past due last month, even though just 12% of such loans have reset to higher monthly payments.

Zillow estimated that nearly one in four homes with mortgages was worth less than the value of the property at the end of June. Mr. Humphries said he didn’t expect to see foreclosure volumes level off until later in 2010. (LD’s emphasis)

With the waves of foreclosures not abating, Uncle Sam’s plans to merely modify mortgages is proving largely insignificant in supporting the overall housing market. Homeowners are clearly showing a strong inclination to default on their mortgages when they are ‘underwater.’ Thus, how does Uncle Sam help people get ‘above water?’ Compel banks to reduce the principal balance of the mortgage. Will they do it? Not quickly, as a principal reduction would imply an immediate hit to the banks’ capital. (more…)

Democracy Likely Defeats Moral Hazard

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 20th, 2009 7:06 PM |

As part of Obama’s proposal to support housing, the administration pushed the application of principal reduction via bankruptcy proceedings. This process, known as a mortgage cram-down, was pushed hard by the administration and many Democrats. Virtually all Republicans and mortgage investors viewed the mortgage cram-down as another in a long line of moral hazards.  In short, the mortgage cram-down would violate the implicit and explicit terms of a written contract. 

I wrote What Is a Mortgage Cram Down? on January 1st. While the Obama administration pushed hard for this legislation to be approved, ultimately those with a longer term vision prevailed. What are the concerns about principal reduction? As I wrote:

I personally find it difficult to swallow the concept of government funding for this program. At this juncture, though, the horse is so far out of the barn that we are trying to prevent the illness from becoming a full blown epidemic, if not a plague.

Home prices are down 18% year over year in the top 20 cities in the country and foreclosures have increased by approximately 40%. Both of these figures are certainly headed further in those directions with continued losses for the holders of the underlying mortgages, whether those mortgages are already pooled into securities or held in whole loan form.

The unintended consequences of a principal reduction program will likely be an increase in mortgage rates over the longer term along with a more stringent credit review for those applying for a mortgage. Why will this happen? Very simply, investors in mortgage securities will demand those concessions if they are to purchase mortgages that have the chance of being “crammed down.” Additionally, this program may actually incentivize some borrowers to intentionally become delinquent in their mortgage payments, and actually risk personal bankruptcy in an attempt to be “crammed down.” Where does the madness end?

(more…)

Mortgage Modification Guidance

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 14th, 2009 12:00 PM |

There is little doubt that there was massive fraud perpetrated by unsavory and unethical mortgage brokers during the housing boom.  I do not mean to paint all mortgage brokers with the same brush. As with any industry, there are a tremendous number of highly ethical people working hard to make an honest living. Regrettably, not everybody falls into that camp.

Our economy would be well served if both local and federal authorities worked harder to expose the criminals in the system, indict them, prosecute them aggressively, and make them pay a very stiff price for their actions.

Not too surprisingly, some of the same ilk that wrote fraudulent mortgages are now populating the mortgage modification industry. People need to be exceedingly careful in engaging those who seem to want to help them modify their mortgage. (more…)

Let’s Listen to Sheila Bair

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 10th, 2009 5:50 AM |

I thoroughly respect Sheila Bair (see my list of Economic All-Stars in the left sidebar). Our Head of the FDIC has been an honest broker each and every time I have heard her speak. I looked forward to her interview with Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal. 

Ms. Bair addresses the finer points of the Obama Foreclosure Mitigation Plan which is targeted at helping 9 million homeowners stay in their homes. Specifically she touches on:

1. how this program will not reward bad behavior;
2. how it can be viewed as helping people who have managed their finances appropriately;
3. expectations of redefaults given her experience with the failed institution Indymac.

As I initially mentioned, I believe Sheila Bair is an honest broker in an impossible position. Her seeming lack of enthusiasm does not strike me as not believing in the benefits of this program, but rather a subtle acceptance that this program can only go so far. Additionally, this type of program will have plenty of unintended consequences. Will people who are currently paying their mortgages on schedule start to become delinquent on their mortgages in order to gain the benefits of this program?

I think Ms. Bair will make the best of a bad situation. That said, no program will be totally effective. I am fully supportive of programs that will assist Americans, but don’t be fooled to think that we will get 100% return on all dollars spent.

Let’s go to the video . . .
 

When 12th Street Talks…

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 3rd, 2009 11:00 AM |

As I continue to develop the product at Sense on Cents, I will look to deliver a variety of angles and perspectives on the markets, the economy, and the world of global finance. On that note, my friends at 12th Street Capital are willing to allow me to share their insights into the mortgage market.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no professional relationship with 12th Street Capital. My brother, Kevin Doyle, works at 12th Street and is gracious enough to allow me to share this commentary with you, my readers. As we look to navigate the economic landscape, I thought this 12th Street piece may prove insightful. While there are some technical terms used in this piece, I do not want to edit and have it lose its integrity. Any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!!

Enjoy….and thank you 12th Street!! (more…)

“My Mama Told Me . . .

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 28th, 2009 2:20 PM |

. . . You Better Shop Around.”  

What does that wonderful song from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles have to do with our economy? I’ll tie that in a bit later.

More and more people are inquiring of me how and why banks are making credit tighter both in terms of availability and in terms of rates charged.

This tightening of credit is due to the “crowding out effect” from dramatically increased government borrowing along with the actuality and likelihood of increased defaults across all consumer and corporate loans. In the face of those defaults, banks will set aside more capital in reserve to cushion those losses.

What is a consumer to do? There are two tactics:

1. Everything’s Negotiable which I highlighted in a post dated December 23, 2008. Talk to your bankers and/or credit providers. Put your banks and other credit providers in competition. Where does one start and how does one easily comparison shop? I’m glad you asked because that leads me to point #2.

2. Shop around (thank you, Smokey)!  Sense on Cents provides links via our Primers (in the right sidebar) for a look across the market to virtually every consumer credit need. Remember I have NO professional relationship with any of these entities. From borrowing needs to investing, with many stops in between, I hope these primers help you navigate the economic landscape going forward!!

And now, a trip down memory lane . . .

 

Leading Wall Street Analyst Speaks

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 22nd, 2009 4:29 PM |

I worked in the mortgage business on Wall Street for 23 years. During that time period I had the good fortune of  developing relationships with some of the finest minds in this sector. While I do not know Laurie Goodman personally, I can tell you that there is no one individual in the market today whom investors follow more closely when it comes to developments in this space. While Ms. Goodman does work in a business that is actively engaged with investors, I have always appreciated her perspectives as being untainted by bias and merely reflecting an extremely professional and honest outlook.

What does Ms. Goodman think about President Obama’s plans for housing? It would appear that there may be all sorts of unintended consequences and misaligned incentives in this proposal. Regrettably plans  that are well intended often do not necessarily achieve their desired results. I strongly recommend you read Mortgage Plan Aids Liars About Income to gain a fuller appreciation of this proposal.

LD






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