Category: foreclosures

Housing recovery?

Over the past year, more and more of the housing pundits, circa 2006, have resurfaced on Bloomberg and CNBC.  Many claim the bottom in housing is in as the US recovery continues due to low interest rates and a healing consumer.  Like any story, the devil is in the details so let’s parse the facts and make our own diagnosis.

Beginning in 2009 the new administration, assisted by the new wards of the state Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (thank you Hank Paulson), began a series of mortgage moratoriums -aka “mortgage modifications.”  Essentially, the government would entertain a variety of mortgage defaults/delinquency cases with the intention of keeping bodies in their homes.  Can’t let the home ownership (or should I say “lease”) program go to waste now.  Since then we note the following facts provided by housing analyst Mark Hanson:

Mods are greater in number by 50% than legacy Sub prime loans in 2006. And they are worse in structure.

– There have been 9.953 MILLION loans “tampered with” through trials, mods and workouts based on OTS data through Q4 2012.  

– Bank “proprietary” Alt-A, high-risk mods outnumber HAMP (Home affordable modification program) mods by over 200%.   Banks have had a field day re-leveraging millions of bad loans into structures that would make Angelo Mozillo blush.  

– Mods are why banks brought back $10s of billions in loan loss reserves as revenue. And why they will have to add back reserves.  

– Mods are where all that housing “supply” went.

– Mods are why foreclosures are at pre-crisis lows.

– Mods turn people into underwater, over-levered renters of their own house.

– Mods prevent the deleveraging process needed for housing to achieve a “durable” recovery with “escape velocity”. 

– Mods compete fiercely with all those new-era buy and rent “investors” (Blackrock, Och-Ziff, Tom Barrack) whose top demand theme when raising opportunity capital a couple of years ago was all of the “millions of homeowners displaced through foreclosure who will need a place to rent until they can buy again”. 

If you look at mods structurally — sky-high DTI, LTV, CLTV and low credit score — they make legacy Subprime loans look sane.  People say “banks aren’t lending”. I say ‘go look at their loan mods volume’.  Loan mods are nothing more than low rate, exotic refi’s for people who can’t do a traditional refi. But they are so exotic they make Pay Option ARMs look structurally sound.  

To put this in context there were only about 4 million legacy Sub-prime loans in existence in 2007 when the wheels came off the sector spurred by the ‘Sub-prime Implosion”.

– Four million Sub-prime loans ignited the mortgage meltdown. So, six million or more ‘worse-than-Sub-prime’ loans hanging over housings’, banks’, and MBS investors’ heads probably isn’t a great thing. 

-HAMP mod redefaults are surging…but banks and servicers have been making much more risky “proprietary” mods than HAMP in much larger volume.   Thus, expect redefaults across ALL loan mods to increase significantly over the next year.  Obviously, this means more distressed supply and for many banks this could mean higher loan loss reserves, etc.  See picture below:

http://bearingasset.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Mortgage-modifications11.jpg

My Comment: So one should ask the question “How long can the government continue to hide inventory from the public”?  Or as importantly, since the public bailed out the banks shouldn’t they be entitled to purchase homes at reasonable price levels, not the artificially inflated kind?

St. Valentine’s day massacre

Latest figures out of the Mortgage Bankers Asscociation clearly rang the alarm bells this week on Capital Hill.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says default rates on all outstanding home loans in the US have reached 7.3%, the highest level since modern records began in the 1970s.
The default rate in America’s ‘prime’ mortgage market has hit a record 4%, prompting fears of house prices crashing by 25%. Arrears on “prime” mortgages have reached a record 4%, confounding expectations that middle-class Americans with good credit records would be able to weather the storm.
While sub-prime and close kin “Alt A” total $2,000bn of debt, the prime market in all its forms is roughly $8,000bn. If prime default rates rise on their current trajectory, they could ultimately cause huge financial damage.

Across the pond our friends in Switzerland were obviously drinking excess mortgage koolaid circa 2002-2006:

UBS reported a fourth-quarter net loss of 12.45 billion Swiss francs ($11.23 billion), including a $13.7 billion write-down on investments tied to U.S. mortgage investments. The bank posted its first full-year net loss — 4.4 billion francs — in the 10 years since it emerged from a megamerger between Swiss Bank Corp. and Union Bank of Switzerland in 1997. Write-downs for 2007 were $18.4 billion.
For the first time, UBS provided details of nearly $70 billion in holdings of subprime-mortgage and other problematic securities — an exposure that led analysts to predict more trouble.

Finally, as Rome continues to burn the noise on Capital Hill sounds more and more like a coordinated bailout is in the works:

Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and four other U.S. lenders will announce steps today to help borrowers in danger of default stay in their homes, according to three people familiar with the plans.

Encouraged by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the banks will offer a 30-day freeze on foreclosures while loan modifications are considered, two people said on condition of anonymity. The initiative, which follows a week of talks with Bush administration officials, will apply to customers who are at least three months late on payments and include prime borrowers, as well as those with poorer credit histories.

Make sure the Swiss are included in the bailout mission.

The banking industry, struggling to contain the fallout from the mortgage debacle, is urgently shopping proposals to Congress and the Bush administration that could shift some of the risk for troubled loans to the federal government.

One proposal, advanced by officials at Credit Suisse Group, would expand the scope of loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The proposal would let the FHA guarantee mortgage refinancings by some delinquent borrowers.
Credit Suisse officials have met with senior officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which runs the FHA, and other policy makers to discuss the proposal. The risk: If delinquent borrowers default on their refinanced loans, the federal government would have to absorb the loss.

My comments: Record mortgage defaults of prime residential mortgages will continue to impede commercial bank lending for many quarters to come. And to think most analysts and money managers believed the fiduciaries back in December when they echoed “the worst is behind us”. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

Foreclosures almost double in October

US foreclosures continue to increase primarily due to ARM resets. As mentioned in earlier posts the ARM increases will peak over the next several quarters so additional pressures on housing should persist.

Bank repossessions increased 35 percent, providing “evidence that more homeowners who enter foreclosure are losing their homes,” James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement. The Irvine, California-based seller of foreclosure data has a database of more than 1 million U.S. properties.

Foreclosures are adding to an 11-month supply of unsold homes, the highest in more than eight years, in the worst U.S. housing slump in 16 years. The declines in home sales and prices have raised concerns consumer spending may drop and push the world’s biggest economy into recession.

Existing home sales fell to the lowest annual rate since 1999 while home prices declined in the third quarter. The decline in home prices was the first since 1994 as a combination of foreclosures and ongoing mortgage tightening impact the consumer. Home delinquencies have risen to a five-year high and 40 percent of U.S. lenders have raised their standards on mortgages for prime borrowers, their most creditworthy customers, according to Federal Reserve data.

My comments: Expect home equity withdrawals to contract significantly as collateral values decline in 2008. Since the consumer is 70% of the economy is it fair to say a recession is upon us?

Homeowner preservation assistance

We’re the government and we’re here to help! So says the state of Pennsylvania who created a mortgage refinance product deemed REAL, Refinance to an Affordable Loan. The program has been adopted by 67 lenders including Countrywide Financial Corp., Sovereign Bank, GMAC Financial Services and JPMorgan Chase. Borrowers generally must not make more than $120,000, among other conditions. The state will lend up to 100 percent of the mortgage.

Joining the forbearance party was none other than Angelo Mozilo and his ARM’s dealers at Countrywide. According to the Countrywide announcement over 35,000 “homeowners” have received assistance by contacting the mortgage retention center.

In addition to direct outreach, Countrywide’s efforts include working with non-profit and community groups across the country to create grassroots efforts to contact and counsel distressed borrowers, particularly in communities that are experiencing unusually high foreclosures. “There is an unprecedented effort among lenders, investors, community groups and the industry to work together to help homeowners,” said Bailey. “No one benefits from foreclosure, and counseling and intermediary support from these groups can be fundamental to the success of our borrowers.

Of course this press release by Moodys may have something to do with the press releases above:

Lenders did little to help subprime borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages stay in their homes, even as it became clear many homeowners would struggle to keep up with their payments, a study released on Friday shows.
Moody’s Investors Service said banks eased borrowing terms on just 1 percent of subprime mortgages with interest rates that reset higher in January, April and July. It said that “only recently” have servicers begun to modify more loans to help homeowners avoid foreclosures, “despite much industry dialogue and heavy press attention” on the problem.

My comments: We’ve seen this movie before. During the 1930s numerous state and local governments intervened with forbearance programs which inevitably failed for obvious reasons. This grand experiment will also fail as wages continue to decline, adjusted for inflation while the financial obligations ratio hits an all time high.

Foreclosures hit record high

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released Q2 foreclosure data this morning. While the recent data continues to worsen housing bulls should not hang their hat on Bush or Bernanke as ARM resets increase in earnest beginning this month (see graph).

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