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May 2010
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Suggestions for Fannie Mac Mortgage Reform

Regulatory reform in the mortgage industry is inevitable. The mortgage blogs have been buzzing this week with talks of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac merging together in an effort to salvage these failing government companies that own 97% of all mortgage notes in America. Even with 30-year fixed rate mortgage programs below 5%, we can’t fix the mortgage mess simply by inducing another refinance boom.

The new Fannie Mac should no longer target low and moderate-income individuals since that replicates FHA’s function. On the path to economic independence, Congress should form a Resolution Trust Corporation type of entity to acquire the new Fannie Mac’s tainted assets. The RTC-type company would dispose of bad credit home loans and real estate acquired through foreclosure. The original RTC was established in 1989 to mop up the assets of failed savings and loan associations. The late Bill Seidman headed it up. He was previously chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation under President George H.W. Bush. He adroitly disposed of billions of dollars of assets and returned the proceeds to the Treasury.

The new Fannie Mac will inherit a massive one-to-four unit, home-lending division. That is where most of the tainted assets are. It will also acquire the smaller, multifamily division. Its delinquencies and defaults are more manageable. The skills necessary to underwrite, securitize and service multifamily loans have little in common with mortgage lending. As a result, the new Fannie Mac should spin off the multifamily division into a new company. One company to dispose of tainted assets; another for home lending and a third to make multifamily loans is a rational approach to shrinking the GSEs and returning billions to the Treasury.

The Republican’s GSE amendment calls for repealing Freddie Mac’s and Fannie Mae’s affordable-housing mandate, requiring the companies to shrink their mortgage portfolios, lowering their loan limits and increasing down-payments for home loans. It is unrealistic for that to happen with the GSEs in their present form and while the economic recovery is weak. But the time is right to merge Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and form three separate companies. That is the best way to lead the GSEs out of federal conservatorship and repay the taxpayers.

Home Mortgage Rates Hit 2010 Low

Mortgage rates fell last week as the turmoil in Europe sparked a flight to safety among investors. According to financial publisher HSH, mortgage interest rates ended at 5.01% last Friday, down from 5.15% at the beginning of the week. But there’s no guarantee that home loan rates will stay low because there’s so much volatility in the market right now. If the Euro rallies or we get good economic news in U.S. economy would surely raise interest rates almost as quickly as they declined. Keith Gumbinger of HSH said, “These things are fleeting.”

The Mortgage Bankers Association said that low rates caused a flurry of refinance activity, with applications up 15% from the previous week. But new home loan applications dropped by nearly 10%, a possible sign that the expiration of the home-buyer tax credit pulled some sales into April that might have occurred in May. Current VA rates were lower than anticipated and VA refinancing volumes rose sharply as a result. Conforming home mortgage rates ended last week just above record lows set in December. Surprisingly, rates have fallen below where they were at the end of March, when the Federal Reserve ended its purchase of $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. Most analysts had expected rates to move up after the Fed wound down its purchases.

Online Loan Shoppers See Lower Mortgage Rates

CBS News reported that the Greek debt crisis led to an unexpected drop in fixed mortgage rates. The Royal Bank, along with all of the other four big banks, dropped the popular five-year fixed closed mortgage 0.15 percentage points to 6.10% on Tuesday. Most banks also dropped the benchmark rate for their discounted five-year mortgage by a similar amount to 4.70%. Some online and smaller mortgage lenders offer no cost refinance loans. This is good news for online home loan shoppers who’ve experienced higher fixed mortgage rates that have risen over 1% in the last month. Many banks followed with reported lower mortgage rates for home buying in the US and Canada. Longer-term fixed interest mortgage rates typically follow longer-term bond yields. The Greek debt crisis put a stop to rising bond yields as traders moved money out of risky assets. “Both treasuries and Government of Canada bonds have recently benefited from lower mortgage interest rates in the Unites States.” Many mortgage loan experts say the lower interest rates are just temporary and note that bond yields are already edging higher as the EU’s bailout package eases Greek default concerns. Adjustable rate mortgage loans are tied to the overnight lending rate. That mortgage interest rate has been at a rock-bottom 0.25% for over a year.