Archive for November, 2012

Yesterday I described How to game the system with FHA loans for maximum advantage. Today, I want to look at the cost of that financing. It's up to you to determine whether you believe the benefits are worth the costs. Many have quipped that FHA has become the replacement for subprime. They have very low standards for qualification (a 580 FICO score), a very low down payment requirement (currently 3.5%), and as a result, they have become the loan-of-necessity for anyone who doesn't have the credit requirements or the down payment necessary to obtain other financing. In other words, they have stepped into the void left by the collapse of subprime lending. The FHA insurance premium is a direct measure of repayment risk divorced from interest rates. Ordinarily, this[READ MORE]

Our current housing finance system is a mess. It's laden with moral hazard, and likely to implode with enormous losses to be absorbed at taxpayer expense. All our current policies are geared toward saving our banking system from financial ruin and making loan owners comfortable with their fate. As with any policy initiatives that distort the natural market, the current system is loaded with unintended incentives that permit people to game the system for their personal advantage. Today we look at how using an FHA loan to game the system provides advantages that offset the high cost of the FHA insurance. In Monday's post, Loan modification defaults soar 24%, can-kicking fails, I found a very astute observation from an industry insider working in loss mitigation. It provides a helpful overview of[READ MORE]

When people are victims of theft, they usually work to remedy the situation so the theft doesn't happen again. If a thief breaks into someone's house, the homeowner installs better locks or alarm systems to avoid a future loss of property or worse. However, when the crime is more complex than breaking-and-entering, or when the government is the facilitator of the crime, it can be much more difficult for the victims to protect themselves, but it's just as necessary.

The Big Steal

I have written that Moral hazard is the central issue in the housing bust. My reasoning is simple. If we let bankers and borrowers get away with stealing from taxpayers, both of those groups will work hard to do it again. So how exactly did they steal from[READ MORE]

One of my earliest posts in May of 2007 was about the impact future loan terms have on future home prices. Most people just assume house prices always go up. Their faith was shaken by a precipitous decline over the last six years, but once the bottom is securely in the rear-view mirror, kool aid intoxication in faith-based appreciation will undoubtedly return. I want to revisit the idea of future house prices depending on future loan terms because it makes a strong case for weak home price appreciation going forward. The how and why matters, and before kool aid takes hold again, it pays to understand what it would take for house prices to go up from here. Over the holiday, I reposted a series on cost of ownership. In the post [READ MORE]

Whenever I make a prediction that goes against the conventional wisdom, I take the risk of looking the fool. On those occasions when I am right, it's very satisfying. Even though I know I shouldn't, internally, I enjoy a silent I-told-you-so. Almost four years ago now, lenders embarked on their plan to modify loans to get people over the "rough patch" caused by the recession. From the beginning I said these programs would fail largely because the people being helped simply couldn't afford their homes. They were Ponzis. When a borrower has gone Ponzi, the "rough patch" is when they are cut off from more Ponzi borrowing. Their diminished income has nothing to do with lower wages they earn due to the recession. Ponzis became dependent upon fresh infusions of borrowed money to sustain their lives and their[READ MORE]

Today is part 4 in the ongoing series on Ownership Cost:OCHN_Greater_knowledge Ownership cost: income, payments and house prices Ownership cost: interest rates and down payment requirements Ownership cost: property taxes, insurance, Mello Roos, and HOAs Ownership cost: taxes and opportunity costs

Four Major Variables that Determine Market Price

Over the last four days we looked at the four main variables that determine home price:
  1. borrower income,
  2. allowable debt-to-income ratios,
  3. interest rates, and
  4. down payment requirements.
Today we are looking at tax implications and opportunity costs because these number will give you a more accurate measure of the impact home ownership will have on the owner’s financial life.


Owning real estate has two significant tax benefits: (1) favorable capital gains tax exemptions and (2) income tax benefit through the home mortgage interest deduction (HMID). Be forewarned that this is not an exhaustive treatise on every permutation in the tax code.[READ MORE]

The need for shelter is basic, often closely followed by the desire for community. In the United States, this often translates into a desire to take on a very large mortgage to buy real estate. These basic human emotions drive much of the activity in real estate markets. Most people buy because it is the right time for them. Their career, age, family circumstances all come together to push people toward ownership at different times. Some are fortunate and buy at the bottom of the real estate cycle. Some are not so fortunate and buy at the peak. The most damaging aspect of our current system is the price volatility. It capriciously rewards some and destroys others. Home price volatility creates a culture of Ponzi borrowing and dependency. The goal of government policy should be price stability, but lately[READ MORE]

Besides credit qualification barriers due to low FICO scores, there are two barriers to originating more loans and selling more houses to owner occupants: (1) insufficient down payment, and (2) increasing loan costs. The FHA still originates loans at 3.5% down, and the credit barriers are limited, despite realtor pleas and rhetoric to the contrary. However, since the FHA is losing a great deal of money and facing a bailout, they are continually raising their insurance fees as they become the replacement for subprime lending. These increasing costs are making houses less affordable and thereby reducing access to credit. As a result, many borrowers are opting for conventional mortgages with their higher down payment requirements. And since fewer potential buyers have the available cash saved for a down payment, the increasing costs of FHA loans which drives people to conventional mortgages is further reducing the buyer pool. This will inevitably[READ MORE]

The monthly housing market reports I publish each month became bullish late last year due to the relative undervaluation of properties at the time. I was still cautious due to weak demand, excessive shadow inventory, the uncertainty of the duration of the interest rate stimulus, and an overall skepticism of the lending cartel's ability to manage their liquidations. In 2012, the lending cartel managed to completely shut off the flow of foreclosures on the market, and with ever-declining interest rates, a small uptick in demand coupled with a dramatic reduction in supply caused the housing market to bottom. Even with the bottom in the rear-view mirror, I remained skeptical of the so-called housing recovery because the market headwinds remained, and the low-interest rate stimulus could change at any moment. Without the stimulus, the housing market would again turn down.[READ MORE]

The Great Housing Bubble cultivated a gentility of entitlement, a sordid societal residue, a system of reliance, a conviction among people that they may possess anything they wish just because; deserving without earning; Grace. Divine acceptance is given; whereas, worldly possessions are earned -- a basic truth lost through possessory entitlement. Few construct and contribute to the greater good, and many expect easy money from lenders, Governments, housing and stock markets or free-money Ponzi Schemes. We are impaired by our lender's failure and our Government's response to the crisis our lenders created; a wound that lingers as a festering sore no bailout balm can remedy. The emotional fall from Grace has barely begun. The amend-pretend-extend dance will continue until lenders tire of paying the piper. Shadow Inventory contains the new entitlement class; while unemployed renters sleep in shelters, unemployed homeowners squat[READ MORE]

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