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Posts Tagged ‘principal reduction’

Will Principal Reduction Save Housing?

Posted by Larry Doyle on January 23rd, 2012 12:53 PM |

While Washington has thrown everything and the kitchen sink to support our banking system and our economy over the last few years, Washington has been unable to prop up our housing market.

What do many in Washington and elsewhere believe needs to be done on the housing front?  (more…)

Barack Really is Going to Pay Her Mortgage

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 26th, 2010 8:24 AM |

My blood is boiling. Why?

The assault on the principles of free market capitalism is escalating with news that banks are poised to start reducing principal balances on certain mortgages.

I empathize with those who are strapped, but I have never felt more strongly on a topic than this principal reduction. Despite any and all bulls*%# put forth by those in Washington, the principal reduction program is an enormous escalation of the violation of moral hazard which our country sadly continues to embrace. I have no doubt it will expedite the development of a socialized housing finance system.

Do not think for a second that banks will take the hit on these principal reductions. Who will take the hit? Me and you. Those who have worked hard, saved, played by the rules, and taught our children to do the same. (more…)

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…)

Elizabeth Warren Highlights Washington’s Losing Battle on Housing

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 9th, 2009 9:21 AM |

Who in Washington will give you a straight answer? Elizabeth Warren.

Who is Elizabeth Warren? Her Wikipedia bio reads:

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren (born 1949) is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law. In the wake of the 2008-9 financial crisis, she has also become the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the U.S. banking bailout, formally known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program. In 2007, she first developed the idea to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which President Barack Obama, Christopher Dodd, and Barney Frank are now advocating as part of their financial regulatory reform proposals.

In May 2009, Warren was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Ms. Warren consistently takes no prisoners or provides no pandering in making honest assessments of the interaction between Washington and Wall Street. She has called the banks on the carpet. She has called Secretary Geithner on the carpet. She has called Congress on the carpet. Why? A general lack of honesty, integrity, and transparency in dealing with the American public.

When she speaks, I listen.

What did she have to say this morning? In commenting on a recently released report on the effectiveness of government programs to support housing, Warren questioned the scalability and the permanence of the impact of the TARP funding. Bloomberg provides further color in writing TARP Oversight Group Says Treasury Mortgage Plan Not Effective. The report highlights:

“Rising unemployment, generally flat or even falling home prices and impending mortgage-rate resets threaten to cast millions more out of their homes,” the report said. “The panel urges Treasury to reconsider the scope, scalability and permanence of the programs designed to minimize the economic impact of foreclosures and consider whether new programs or program enhancements could be adopted.”

New programs or program enhancements? Yesterday I opined “Washington Needs a New Housing Model” and wrote:

While the administration swims upstream on this issue, bank policy of tight credit and restrictive lending only further exacerbates the housing market. Make no mistake, though, banks are taking that approach to tight credit at the behest of regulators who know the level of losses in the banking system and are trying to preserve the industry as a whole.

I like a rallying equity market as much as anybody, but I wouldn’t spend any paper gains just yet. Why? The new housing model is displaying that:

“As defaults become more common, the social stigma attached with defaulting will likely be reduced, especially if there continues to be few repercussions for people who walk away from their loans,” concluded Sapienza.  “This has an adverse effect on homeowners who do pay their mortgages, and the after-effects of more defaults and more price collapse could be economic catastrophe.”

This model needs some quick-dry crazy glue, which could only be applied in the form of a serious principal reduction program. Banks would take immediate and massive hits to capital which they clearly won’t accept.

So how can we generate some support for housing?

Aside from a principal reduction program, the penalty for those who would strategically default on their mortgage needs to be far more onerous.

The principal reduction would negatively impact bank earnings. Too bad. The banks are currently feeding at the taxpayer trough and would not be here without the bailouts. The individuals who are capable of making their payments need to accept the moral responsibility that is embedded in a contract.

Given the massive violation of moral hazards and breaking of contracts by Uncle Sam, that old man does not have a lot of credibility on that front.

What do we really learn here? Ultimately, the market is the market and efforts to manipulate or support a falling market will only be temporary. The market needs to find the clearing level where private money will purchase properties. That private money will wait while Uncle Sam continues to try to prop the market.

In the meantime, do not expect any meaningful support for housing.

LD






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