Monday, October 29, 2007

Meanwhile, on the Option ARM Front

by Tanta on 10/29/2007 09:56:00 AM

Lenders continue diligently to seek out new customers eager to trade home equity for entrance into the "upscale subprime" class.

From the LA Times:

Sunwest's president and co-owner, Jason Hayes Evans, didn't respond to requests to discuss his company's mailings. But a salesman at Sunwest, describing it as staffed by capable mortgage veterans who survived the industry shakeout, said everyone at the brokerage took pains to carefully explain to borrowers the risks as well as the benefits of option ARMs.

The salesman, who asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak for Sunwest, said the company provided option-ARM loans from several companies, including Wachovia, that keep the loans as investments rather than sell them.

Sunwest considered disclosing more about pay-option perils in its two-page mailings, the salesman said. "But that would have taken up too much space. You'd need four pages to cover everything." The firm instead relies on explanations by its employees, he said.

The option ARM that allows payments based on a 1% interest rate is intended only for people who have at least 30% home equity, have lived in the home for three years or more and have solidly prime credit scores of 700 and up, the Sunwest salesman said.

Good candidates for such loans, he added, include salespeople living on commissions that vary month to month or people nearing retirement who have more than 50% equity in their homes and know for sure that they will sell their properties when they downsize in a few years.

Of course, the salesman acknowledged, many borrowers at all income levels are attracted to the option ARM because they have let their personal spending get so out of control that the low payment is the only one they can afford.

"Newport Beach, where everyone is driving a Mercedes and the homes start at $1 million, is like an old western movie set," he said, describing the finances of many wealthy homeowners as precarious. "It's all just a front, with stilts holding it up."
This kind of reminds me of my favorite cheesecake recipe, which calls for two and a half pounds of cream cheese, six large eggs, and a half a pint of heavy cream, among other things. It's intended for people in perfect health and at an ideal body weight whose ancestors lived to be 100 and who only eat raw green veggies. Somehow it gets consumed down to the last crumb anyway.