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Posts Tagged ‘OFHEO’

[Mapping Misery] Only 10-15% To Go!

May 9, 2008 | 12:32 am | |

The Economist magazine appropriately named Map of misery article on US Housing showcases a map of OFHEO data that chronicles the change in housing prices by County/State.

The pain of America’s housing bust varies enormously by region. Hardest hit have been the “bubble states”—California, Nevada and Florida, and parts of the industrial Midwest. The biggest uncertainty hanging over the economy is how red will things get.

Yesterday I joked about Bernanke using heat maps and The Economist saw the humor in it as well.

Sounding more like a cartographer than a central banker, Ben Bernanke this week showed off the Federal Reserve’s latest gizmo for tracking America’s property bust: maps that colour-code price declines, foreclosures and other gauges of housing distress for every county. His goal was to show that falling prices meant more foreclosures, and to urge lenders to write down the principal on troubled loans where the house is worth less than the value of the mortgage. His maps—where hotter colours imply more trouble—also make a starker point. The pain of America’s housing bust varies enormously by region. Hardest hit have been the “bubble states”—California, Nevada and Florida, and parts of the industrial Midwest. The biggest uncertainty hanging over the economy is how red will things get.

But can a “bottom” be projected?

One of the most favored ways to measure a housing market by The Economist magazine is to track the ratio of rental prices to sales prices. From 1960 to 1995, rent/price was 5% to 5.5%. When prices soared over the last decade, the ratio is 3.5%. In order to get the ratio back up to 5%, prices have to drop 10% to 15% assuming rents are flat. It’s lookin’ like at least 2010 before this happens.

In terms of projecting when we will see an end to the weak housing market, try correlating it with handgun accuracy. NYC police officers hit their targets roughly 34 percent of the time. Of course, when they fire at dogs, roughly 55 percent of shots hit home.


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[GSE Pin Cushion] Will The Saviours Of Housing Need Saving?

May 8, 2008 | 12:57 am | |

Ok, let me get this straight. Fannie Mae:

Actually Fannie Mae’s stock dropped 5.7% yesterday so maybe it’s not love afterall.

Ok, what am I missing here? It seems to me that the GSEs can not be the housing market’s sole saviours and we risk serious damage to our financial system if housing drops sharply this year and Fannie & Freddie get taken over by the government and assume the liabilities…

But some financial experts worry that the companies are dangerously close to the edge, especially if home prices go through another steep decline. Their combined cushion of $83 billion — the capital that their regulator requires them to hold — underpins a colossal $5 trillion in debt and other financial commitments.

The companies, which were created by Congress but are owned by investors, suffered more than $9 billion in mortgage-related losses last year, and analysts expect those losses to grow this year.

More regulation is need to protect the GSEs from faltering. OFHEO lowered their capital requirements in exchange for making Fannie Mae go out and borrower $6B to help protect against further housing market declines.

“Regulators need all the tools they can get to make sure these companies don’t fail, especially since we’re talking about entities that have over $5 trillion in financial commitments and debt,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. “Six billion dollars looks like a pretty paltry sum, and if we get into a further housing downturn, that capital can go pretty fast.”

The dilemma (although its not really a dilemma because there few other options) is whether to entrust the GSE to get the nation out of the mortgage problem that is keeping housing from stabilizing.

Increased roles for Fannie and Freddie could be just what the doctor ordered to maintain confidence and liquidity in the mortgage markets at a crucial time and stave off a far greater crisis. However, if the crisis continues to deepen, these companies could go under and possibly push the worldwide financial system into turmoil.

William Poole, a former Federal Reserve Bank president, said that Fannie and Freddie are “at the top of my list of sources of potentially serious trouble.” And according to Senator Mel Martinez, a former secretary of housing and urban development, the companies “could cause an economywide meltdown if they got into real trouble and leave the public on the hook for billions.”

It seems to me like this is one small solution of many others that are needed. It’s going to be a long time to ride out this downturn and common sense says that the GSEs can’t weather it alone. FHA lost money last year too. I am starting to think we are making things worse by trying to fix the problem.

Here’s a great piece by Randall Forsyth of Barrons called Show Me the Monet where he says more than half of all homeowners who bought in ’06 are underwater and that’s the tipping point for foreclosures. He wonders how the worst of the credit crisis can be behind us.


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[Capital Reflection] GSE/NY AG Comment Period Over, Political Maneuvering Remains

May 6, 2008 | 12:01 am | |

Did a lot of painting inside my house this weekend so I apologize if some of the paint ended up on this post.

The comment period has ended but the debate rages on within the appraisal profession: the new mortgage process that does not allow appraisals to be ordered by mortgage brokers will have the effect of enabling appraisal management companies and end up with an unreliable appraisal product. Two different paths taken to the same end: crummy collateral asset quality.

I am guessing the OCC is going to get busy, gaining back the limelight on the mortgage lending process from the NY AG’s office.

James Hagarty wrote a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal called Who Should Profit From Home Appraisals? about the political storm that has only just begun. What I find disappointing is how self-serving the players have become. Nothing wrong with advocating for your constituents, that is their job. The part that rubs me wrong is that it has become so predictable. The trade groups seem to be saying the old system worked just fine. Of course that is a complete disconnect from reality.

How does one explain how we got here? And are we going in the right direction?

  • Appraisal Management Companies (Title/Appraisal Vendor Management Association) – banks pay them about the same fee as the appraiser would get but they keep 30% to 60% of the fee and work hard to find appraiser (form-fillers) who will work at fees that don”t allow them to do research in the appraisal process. It’s laughable that the trade group contends they pay market rate to appraisers. Market rate for AMCs, I think is what he means. The AMC model doesn’t work paying market rates. It has been my experience that most appraisals I have seen done for AMCs are usually not worth the paper they are written on. The lower caliber appraisers they are forced to use experienced a flood of business during the housing boom. It is going to be interesting to see how that caliber of appraiser fares in a tighter underwriting environment.

The AMCs keep a big share of the fees consumers pay, typically at least 30% and sometimes more than half, appraisers and AMC executives say. The AMCs say they provide a valuable service by maintaining networks of local appraisers and controlling quality. “The AMCs pay market rate” to local appraisers, says Jeff Schurman, executive director of the Title/Appraisal Vendor Management Association, a trade group.

  • Mortgage Brokers (National Association of Mortgage Brokers) – they want the appraisal industry to self-police and get rid of appraisers who turned in falsified work. Yes that has worked so well already (sarcastic emphasis). While we are at it, let’s tell mortgage brokers not to press appraisers for a higher value than they know is right or withhold payment from an appraiser for not making the number. Unbelievable. This mortgage brokerage group should be ashamed of themselves for taking the scare tactic approach that consumers will be forced to pay much higher fees. How much has the current mess already cost consumers?

  • Appraisers (Appraisal Institute) – Appraisers have flip-flopped on this issue. Initially they applauded the Cuomo agreement but were disconnected from what the industry wanted. The industry has been roiling for the past month over the empowerment of AMCs. I think this trade group, which is inherently commercial appraiser centric rather than focused on the plight of residential appraisers, is so worried about AMCs that they are willing to accept the lesser evil of allowing mortgage brokers to control the appraisal (bingo!). Loss of competent appraisers versus standing up to intense pressure to play ball. Not much of a choice.

  • OFHEO (HUD) – They seem to be detached from this whole situation yet they are the oversight agency for the GSEs. Amazing.

  • FDIC – No comments submitted (yet they insure lenders and provide bank oversight).

  • Federal Reserve – No comments submitted (yet they manage the health of the banking system).

  • Congress – proposing lots of ideas but most of them of no real help or will provide a benefit after it is too late. Hard to parse out grandstanding from heartfelt concern. I’d like to think they are really trying to fix it.

  • OCC (Treasury Department) – No comments submitted and boy are they pissed off. Their turf has been stepped on. Actually, it has been stomped on. I’d expect a lot more statements from the OCC in the near future.

Bottom line: If we want the lending system to have the collateral value estimate free from corruption and influence, then appraisal management companies, bank loan officers and mortgage brokers have no business whatsoever, ordering appraisals directly because they have a vested in their outcome. I believe it is called commingling interests.

Comments or no comments, I find it hard to believe that OCC will allow this to happen without making their own agreement. Otherwise, they will become as non-existent as OFHEO was during the housing boom.

Also check out: The Housing Crisis & The Plague of Potomac Fever


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[GSE Searchlight] Oversight Is So Not Over

April 23, 2008 | 12:35 am |

There is a whole lot of oversight going on these days. OFHEO [Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight] and others are very concerned about the ability of the GSEs to avoid getting into trouble.

I wonder why there was so little oversight before the credit crunch? Was it an…oversight (sorry)?

It’s pretty scary to think that Fannie and Freddie (and HUD) are seen as the saviors of the housing market in the creation of a jumbo conforming mortgage product, expanded portfolio size and a housing market condition that continues to weaken (default rates rise as prices decline). They are already vulnerable.

Although few are predicting an imminent need for a bailout just yet, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s recently placed an estimated price tag on this worst case scenario — $420 billion to $1.1 trillion of taxpayer’s money.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are getting a lot more attention from the Treasury Department these days.

Treasury officials have stepped up efforts to strengthen the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest buyers of home mortgages, pressing key senators to break a legislative stalemate that has lasted for years.

In OFHEOs Report to Congress, it summarizes the concerns quite efficiently:

$5.0 trillion in guaranteed mortgage-backed securities outstanding and mortgage investments. Their market share of total mortgage originations grew from 37.4 percent in 2006 to 75.6 percent by the fourth quarter of 2007. There is increasing pressure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to do even more to support the mortgage market, which is problematic in absence of GSE reform legislation to strengthen the regulatory process.

As evidenced by the lack of market enthusiasm for the new jumbo conforming mortgage product that was supposed to help the housing market (allowing some homeowners to refi their way out of trouble – which can’t be good for FNMA’s portfolio). And OFHEO is just wrapping up actions against former FNMA executives who manipulated earnings to enhance their bonus income.

It doesn’t seem reasonable to place all of our hopes for a solution on the GSEs.

Consider oversight in the classroom: How students see their classroom today.


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[OFHEO Guidance] Stuck With Mudd On $417,000

March 28, 2008 | 12:57 am |

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which has actually had to engage in a lot of oversight as of late, has been in the unenviable position of deciding whether to expand the conforming loan limit. It has been stuck at $417,000 for the past three years. OFHEO Director James B. Lockhart, who was nominated by President Bush and approved by Congress back in 2006, just as things began to get interesting. OFHEO used to be a sleepy oversight agency, responsible for the two GSEs: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that appear to rubber stamp everthing the GSE requested. No more.

Here’s the official guidance.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Fannie Mae, Daniel Mudd agrees with Lockhart on expanding the conforming loan limits to ease the credit crunch.

OFHEO is now on the hotseat because the GSEs have become a key ingredient to restoring investor confidence in the secondary mortgage market, which is a key ingredient to returning liquidity to the credit markets. I have been fairly critical of the agency of the years, but I have to say that Lockhart’s timely and tireless actions seem to be what the doctor ordered.

In theory, the conforming loan limit should float with the housing market but as the market has been declining, the conforming mortgage ceiling has remained unchanged. OFHEO decided that the rate should not be dropped because of the existing complexity of implementing the temporary increase of the conforming loan limit beginning on Setember 1st as a step to help the credit markets.

The conforming loan limit is adjusted annually through a calculation of year-over-year October changes to the level of home prices based on data from the Federal Housing Finance Board’s (FHFB) Monthly Interest Rate Survey (MIRS). As many commenters suggested, the small and voluntary MIRS price survey is volatile, which is another reason for this guidance to emphasize stability. Pending GSE reform legislation would allow the selection of a broader and more comprehensive price index.

It sounds like there will be more transparency in selecting the way the mortgage cap will be adjusted in the future. While I think that the rate should be adjusted up and down, not just up, it’s a catch-22 really. Lowering the rate will reduce financing availability for markets on the fringe, and that in turn, will weaken certain housing markets causing more defaults. Of course, it has the potential to make investors more skittish about conventional mortgages because the risk/value relationship is being expanded (market values drop, mortgage cap remain the same, risk spread widens).

And why do we borrow until it hurts?

No offense to Daniel or Roger intended, but what’s mud spelled backwards?


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Confidence Has Left The Building

March 26, 2008 | 1:14 pm | |

Guess what? People don’t feel as good with their lot in life when the value of their house falls. What a concept. Professor Shiller wrote a position paper on the Wealth Effect which tied the power of consumer spending more closely to housing than stocks.

The Conference Board released their index and it has reached the level seen only during recessions. It is at its lowest level since 1973. Incidentally, I remember walking to school in 1973 (I wasn’t old enough to drive or shave) seeing long lines at the pump and the conventional wisdom said there was only 20 years remaining for oil.

The S&P/Case Shiller Index has only one market area showing positive price growth yoy (New Yorkers: remember that CSI excludes condos from it’s metro price calcs) – Charlotte, NC and the declines across their other 19 markets are growing and some are approaching 20%. My former firm Radar Logic will be releasing their monthly report next week and I expect it to say show something similar.

OFHEO, which is scrambling to remain relevant, has converted to monthly releases to compete with the CSI index. OFHEO shows prices for January were off 3% from a year earlier. OFHEO uses a similar methodology to CSI but only tracks conforming mortgages. The current threshold is $417,000, which severely underrepresents certain higher priced housing markets on the east and west coasts. I’ll have to look into how OFHEO is going to track housing stats after September 1 when the temporary conforming mortgage loan limits increases to a max of $729K. Also, it is important to only look at their purchase index since they, for some unexplainable reason, include refinance market value estimates in their data as well. We now know that appraised values during the housing boom were systemically inflated.

Of course this negative news is offset by the NAR press release (which is patently misleading) covering existing home sales:

One bright spot is that falling home prices may be beginning to spark buyers’ interest. The National Association of Realtors said earlier this week that sales of existing homes rose in February.

Please.


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Billion Mortgage March: GSEs To Make Waves

March 19, 2008 | 12:57 pm | |

This is huge.

Federal regulators said Wednesday they would allow mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce the capital they are required to keep on hand, a move that could pump $200 billion into mortgage markets.

The rule change was announced by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, (OFHEO), a normally low-profile agency which sets rules for the two government sponsored companies that between them hold or guarantee nearly $5 trillion in mortgages.

Here’s the OFHEO press release.

OFHEO estimates that Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s existing capabilities, combined with this new initiative and the release of the portfolio caps announced in February, should allow the GSEs to purchase or guarantee about $2 trillion in mortgages this year. This capacity will permit them to do more in the jumbo temporary conforming market, subprime refinancing and loan modifications areas.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (as well as FHA) have evolved into critical roles in stabilizing the credit market panic and have assumed important roles in providing greater liquidity to the mortgage markets, a key component in avoiding long term damage to the economy.

The OFHEO assures us that the 20% capital requirement is enough cushion for safety and the GSEs will begin to aggressively raise capital starting now. The $200B in extra funds will allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy more mortgage securities and new home loans and increase mortgage guarantees.

Not too sound too rah rah here but I am amazed that we continue to see creative solutions to the credit crisis, seemingly everyday. Of course OFHEO missed the boat while the problems developed but at least now we are seeing some action.

Mandatory reading today: Can’t Grasp Credit Crisis? Join the Club by the NYT’s David Leonhardt. Please read it.

Raise your hand if you don’t quite understand this whole financial crisis.


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More Than Just Guidelines, OFHEO/Cuomo Agree On The Code

March 4, 2008 | 12:36 am | | Public |

…the title…imagine the voice of Captain Jack Sparrow’s first mate…arrr

OFHEO and NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reached a deal today that may help create an environment for appraisers to be independent. Karen Freifeld and Sharon L. Lynch’s Bloomberg News article Fannie, Freddie to Overhaul Appraisals in Cuomo Deal says:

“The goal of the office is to find out what went wrong and how to fix the problem,” Cuomo said today at a news conference. “What we identified as the common denominator, if you will, was appraisal valuation.”

“We believe the appraisals were often fraudulent because there were conflicts of interest and pressure on the appraisers,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo strategy was to get the GSEs to agree and the other markets will follow.

And long time mortgage lending critic NY Senator Charles Shumer chimes in:

Accurate, independent appraisals are very important to ensuring the safety and soundness of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the mortgage market,” Lockhart said in a statement. “The agreements should help restore confidence in the mortgage market by enhancing underwriting practices, reducing mortgage fraud and making home valuations more reliable.”

In James R. Hagerty and Amir Efrati’s WSJ article Fannie, Freddie Set Stricter Appraisal Rules quotes me:

“In my opinion, 70% to 80% of appraisals that were done during the housing boom are probably not worth the paper they’re written on because the appraisers…were rewarded with more volume,” said Jonathan J. Miller, a New York appraiser and longtime critic of industry practices. He estimates that home values are overvalued nationwide by at least 10% because of inflated appraisals.

My significant concerns over appraisal management companies aside, important element of this agreement are spelled out in the Home Valuation Code of Conduct.

The first part of the code was what interested me most:

No employee, director, officer, or agent of the lender, or any other third party acting as joint venture partner, independent contractor, appraisal management company, or partner on behalf of the lender, shall influence or attempt to influence the development, reporting, result, or review of an appraisal through coercion, extortion, collusion, compensation, instruction, inducement, intimidation, bribery, or in any other manner including but not limited to:

  1. withholding or threatening to withhold timely payment for an appraisal report;

  2. withholding or threatening to withhold future business for an appraiser, or demoting or terminating or threatening to demote or terminate an appraiser1;

  3. expressly or impliedly promising future business, promotions, or increased compensation for an appraiser;

  4. conditioning the ordering of an appraisal report or the payment of an appraisal fee or salary or bonus on the opinion, conclusion, or valuation to be reached, or on a preliminary estimate requested from an appraiser;

  5. requesting that an appraiser provide an estimated, predetermined, or desired valuation in an appraisal report, or provide estimated values or comparable sales at any time prior to the appraiser’s completion of an appraisal report;

  6. providing to an appraiser an anticipated, estimated, encouraged, or desired value for a subject property or a proposed or target amount to be loaned to the borrower, except that a copy of the sales contract for purchase transactions may be provided;

  7. providing to an appraiser, appraisal management company, or any entity or person related to the appraiser or appraisal management company, stock or other financial or non-financial benefits;

  8. allowing the removal of an appraiser from a list of qualified appraisers used by any entity, without prior written notice to such appraiser, which notice shall include written evidence of the appraiser’s illegal conduct, a violation of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP. or state licensing standards, substandard performance, or otherwise improper or unprofessional behavior;

  9. ordering, obtaining, using, or paying for a second or subsequent appraisal or automated valuation model in connection with a mortgage financing transaction unless there is a reasonable basis to believe that the initial appraisal was flawed or tainted and such basis is clearly and appropriately noted in the loan file, or unless such appraisal or automated valuation model is done pursuant to a bona fide pre- or post-funding appraisal review or quality control process; or

  10. any other act or practice that impairs or attempts to impair an appraiser’s independence, objectivity, or impartiality.

arrrrgh, matey (sorry – but I have been waiting for years for some progress on this).

Update: Large lenders agree to new appraisal codes [UPI]

Update 2: In Deal With Cuomo, Mortgage Giants Accept Appraisal Standards [NYT]


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[In The Media] CNBC Power Lunch Clip for 1-25-08

January 25, 2008 | 10:12 pm | Public |

I got a last second call from CNBC to provide commentary on the stimulus plan, specifically how and increase in conforming loan limits for both the GSE’s and FHA helps housing, if at all.

To view the clip.

The key point with the expansion of the loan limits is the potential increase in availability of mortgage products in higher priced home markets. Right now the east and west coasts have less representation in conforming loan pools because their price points are much higher. For example, the cost of living, specifically to housing in San Jose, CA is 5x as much as Cleveland, OH. This proposal could spread the access around. However, it also has the effect of restricting access in lower priced markets because the portfolio caps the GSEs abide by aren’t on the agenda to be raised. That limits the effectiveness of the expansion of loan limits (if you believe Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can be receive adequate oversight).

OFHEO raises legitimate concerns about oversight of the GSE’s and the higher potential for risk. However, OFHEO was asleep at the switch when FNMA had accounting issues a few years back so I am not convinced OFHEO would be able to understand what changes would be needed to better oversee GSE actions. Also, any stimulus plan form needs to be implemented quickly or not at all. Government is not known for being nimble.

Interestingly, Diane Olick, who was interviewed in the above clip, mentions (via Housing Doom) that the Fannie Mae home page has changed in the past 2 years to reflect a different mission. I wonder if OFHEO understands what that change means?

The rate actions by the Fed this week and this expansion of loan limits, if passed, seem to push us in the right direction (symbolically and politically), in finding a solution to the weakening economyt. Much of the solution is correction and letting time go by.

In reality, its all about credit. So far, the symbolism in these gestures would go toward restoring confidence, but I suspect there is a long way to go.


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Better Than Coffee: Stimulating Discussion About Stimulus

January 25, 2008 | 12:44 pm |

The White House and the House agreed to a $150B plan to reinvigorate the economy, which because of the housing market slide, may either be in a recession or about to enter one.

Democratic and Republican congressional leaders reached a tentative deal Thursday on tax rebates of $300 to $1,200 per family and business tax cuts to jolt the slumping economy.

Its not a done deal, however, since the Senate still has to approve the measure and Senate Democrats are talking about tacking on additional items which could slow down its approval, but the speed at which the House approved may influence the Senate’s speed to approve as well.

Actually, the speed at which this was approved was annointed as a new sign of bi-partisan cooperation. The rebate elements and newfound cooperation are because its an election year and people vote with their wallets. I had fleeting thoughts that they know something we don’t know which prompted the quick action. I’ll try to keep those feelings in check as this unfolds.

Yesterday I participated in a roundtable discussion that addressed the impact of the stimulus package. The take away was that the rebate component was an important gesture, albeit political, but won’t be enough to prevent recession or further weakness. After all, the total stimulus plan represents about 1% of the US economy. Since 70% of the economy is consumer generated, the rebates are seen as a way to prime the pump. Whether its spent or saved, its a plus but a very small one at best. For a sense of Deja Vu, go here.

The idea of a expanding the OFHEO size restriction on conforming loans from $417,000 to $625,000 is a good thing, I believe, as well as doubling FHA loan limits from $367,000 to $729,750.

The California Association of Realtors has been saying that the conforming loan limit restriction is an impediment to economic recovery and I probably agree with them with some caveats. The existing conforming loan limit set by OFHEO seems to be arbitrary, simply because it doesn’t float with the housing market. When housing prices slipped, OFHEO kept the loan limit unchanged. The coastal markets, where housing prices are significantly higher, is disproportionately penalized by OFHEO restrictions.

By expanding the loan limits to be more consistent with local housing markets in higher priced areas, the availability of credit, may be expanded and that would help with refi and sales activity which could temper foreclosure actions and temper the slow down in transactions.

My concern is that there would be more risk placed on the GSE’s (Fannie and Freddie) and thats OFHEO’s concern as well. Congress forced portfolio size restrictions on the GSE’s in light of their accounting problems and I have yet to find whether this issue was addressed in the package. In other words, will more loans actually fall under this change or would there simply be a reallocation of mortgage types.

Media Appearance: I’ll be on CNBC Power Lunch at about 12:30 today on a panel discussion covering this issue.

UPDATE: As far as I can tell, the portfolio caps on the GSE’s are not being expanded, which significantly mutes the benefit of expanding the loan limit because it will result in the spreading around of loans taking from lower priced markets and moving availability to higher priced markets. Hopefully the Senate version will expand them.


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Looking At Refinance Mortgages: An Early Warning Indicator Of House Price Risk?

January 16, 2008 | 8:29 am |

David Berson, the chief economist who recently left Fannie Mae for PMI, authored an article in their Economic Real Estate Trends newsletter called “What is a normal housing market?

Over the past year, home sales have dropped by 22 percent, single-family housing starts have plummeted by almost 35 percent, and nationwide, home values have slipped by about 4.5 percent. Clearly it has been far from a normal year in the housing market, and 2006 was weak as well. On the other hand, the several years before these were just as unusual for housing, but from the opposite perspective. So, just what is a normal year for housing, and will we ever see one again?

I think, more importantly than understand “normal”, how did the pressure for issuing mortgages increase the risk of housing market? It looks pretty substantial since non-arm’s length transactions far outpaced the market based on price.

By definition, OFHEO uses Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac data which is limited to mortgages of $417,000 or less and because its a repeat sales index, new development is excluded.

One of the charts posted in the newsletter showed purchases (blue) versus all transactions (red) [translation: red includes refi’s/homeequities/purchases]. Since the red line spikes well above the blue line in 2004-2006, and the red line data includes the blue line data, it illustrates that values of mortgage transactions that were not purchases, were significantly higher than the purchases to move the line that high.

Since non-sale transactions drove the mortgage business over this period and were not transactions driven by buyers and sellers haggling over price, it likely placed the housing mortgage market at greater risk. You can see the 2004-2006 period were all transactions were well above purchases providing an early warning to the mortgage market problems we are seeing now.


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There Is No National Housing Market

December 2, 2007 | 1:47 am | Milestones |

The use of national housing statistics has been a key source of confusion for consumers, real estate brokers, lenders, media, financial markets and government agencies among others. The statistics are often applied to local markets and properties. The reliance on these numbers for ground level use has a pet peeve of mine for many years.

When Radar Logic rolled out its first RPX Monthly Housing Report on October 2, 2007, we made sure that the focus was geographical housing patterns.

The report effort was based on the premise that there is no national housing market; rather, each of the MSAs, while having some economic influences in common like mortgage rates, is influenced primarily by local conditions.

I was encouraged by the release of the latest batch of market reports this week that have begun to make this point more clear in their press releases. When the market was rising, press release jargon tended to be much more focused on national numbers. I suspect we will see a shift in orientation since this is really a false premise.

Office Of Housing Enterprise Oversight [OFHEO] – November 29, 2007

The figures were released today by OFHEO Director James B. Lockhart, as part of the quarterly report analyzing housing price appreciation trends.

“While select markets still maintain robust rates of appreciation, our newest data show price weakening in a very significant portion of the country,” said Lockhart. “Indeed, in the third quarter, more than 20 states experienced price declines and, in some cases, those declines are substantial.

National Association of Realtors – November 28, 2007

NAR President Richard Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif., emphasized that all real estate is local. “Keep in mind that home prices are up in 93 out of 150 metro areas, and there is a lot of confusion in the market from reports about national data. Broadly speaking, home prices in most areas are up modestly or fairly stable,” he said. “Areas with population or job growth are seeing the strongest home price gains.”

National Association of Home Builders [NAHB] – November 27, 2007

Their comments on the release of the S&P/Case-Shiller numbers this month…

“We need to put these numbers in proper historical context by analyzing them over the long term, rather than in one-year increments,” said Brian Catalde, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from El Segundo, Calif. “The statistics released today also reaffirm that all housing markets are local, and conditions in them are dictated by the local economy and job market.




UPDATE: Economist Humor: A friend of mine, who happens to be a well respected economist, mentioned to me last week:

…there are 3 kinds of economists: the kind that can count and the kind that can’t.


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