Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Subprime Borrower Refi Options

by Tanta on 8/28/2007 09:50:00 AM

Bank of America's RMBS Desk has a research note out (not publically available) that attempts to estimate the realistic refinance options, if any, for outstanding subprime ARMs that are facing reset in the immediate future.

The analysis looks at both credit standards and current interest rates on alternative loans, and concludes that refinancing into a new subprime loan or, for those borrowers whose credit profile has improved since loan origination, a new Alt-A loan, is essentially not an option. The interest rates on new subprime and Alt-A, given the current environment, are simply too high to offer any improvement in the monthly payment.

Therefore, the report concludes that FHA and Fannie Mae's "Expanded Approval" program (EA, its existing program for "near prime") are the only realistic options, given pricing structures. BoA estimates that approximately 18% of outstanding subprime ARM borrowers could qualify for an FHA refi (on both credit guidelines and rate reduction), and approximately 36% could qualify for Fannie Mae's EA. (That's best understood as 36% qualifying for either FHA or EA, not a total of 54%.) The larger bucket of loans qualifying for EA is mostly a matter of the larger GSE maximum loan amount compared to the FHA maximum, as well as a slice of the highest-credit class for which EA, at least in theory, offers 100% financing in contrast to FHA's 97% maximum.

Still, BoA's analysis is assuming an effective interest rate (including FHA or private mortgage insurance premiums) of around 8.50% for FHA and 8.50%-9.50% for the EA loans. In other words, the refi rate for these borrowers, at best, is enough to keep them at pre-reset payment levels. It isn't enough to bail out anyone who cannot carry the pre-reset payment.

It is always possible to change the eligibility and qualifying rules on either FHA or EA so that more borrowers can be accommodated, and there are certainly demands out there, especially for FHA, to do this. How, exactly, we will price the risk so that these borrowers are in the money is, as far as I can tell, the unmentioned part that probably matters.