Monday, December 31, 2007

Housing Summary

by Calculated Risk on 12/31/2007 08:54:00 PM

What is that pig? It's from Tanta's Excel Art. A Mortgage Pig™ exclusive.

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Pig Warning: this is a large (2 MB) Excel File.

And yes, the Mortgage Pig™ is wearing lipstick.

Happy New Year to All!

The following are some excerpts (with graphs) from a few housing posts in December. Follow the link for the entire post.

From Homeowners With Negative Equity

The following graph shows the number of homeowners with no or negative equity, using the most recent First American data, with several different price declines.

Homeowners with no or negative equity Click on graph for larger image.

At the end of 2006, there were approximately 3.5 million U.S. homeowners with no or negative equity. (approximately 7% of the 51 million household with mortgages).

By the end of 2007, the number will have risen to about 5.6 million.

If prices decline an additional 10% in 2008, the number of homeowners with no equity will rise to 10.7 million.

The last two categories are based on a 20%, and 30%, peak to trough declines.

From: Home Builders and Homeownership Rates

From 1995 to 2005, the U.S. homeownership rate climbed from 64% to 69%, or about 0.5% per year.

U.S. Homeownership Rates The graph shows the homeownership rate since 1965. Note the scale starts at 60% to better show the recent change.

The reasons for the change in homeownership rate will be discussed [see here], but here are two key points: 1) The change in the homeownership rate added about half a million new homeowners per year, as compared to a steady homeownership rate, 2) the rate (red arrow is trend) appears to be heading down.

From: MBA Mortgage Delinquency Graph

MBA Mortgage Delinquency Here is a graph of the MBA mortgage delinquency rate since 1979.

This is the overall delinquency rate, and it is at the highest rates since 1986. As noted earlier this morning, delinquencies are getting worse in every category - including prime fixed rate mortgages - and getting worse at a faster rate in every category.

NOTE on 12/31/2007: See: Defaults on Insured Mortgages Reach Record

From: Housing Inventory and Rental Units

Rental Units Renting is a substitute for owning, and to understand the current excess housing inventory, we also need to consider rental units.

This graph shows the number of occupied (blue) and vacant (red) rental units in the U.S. (all data from the Census Bureau).

From: Downey Financial Non-Performing Assets

Downey Financial Non-Performing Assets From the Downey Financial 8-K released on Dec 14th.

This would be a nice looking chart, except those are the percent non-performing assets by month.

From: NAHB: Builder Confidence Unchanged at Record Low

NAHB Housing Market Index The NAHB reports that builder confidence was unchanged at a record low 19 in December.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Remains Unchanged For Third Consecutive Month
Builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes remained unchanged for a third consecutive month in December as problems in the mortgage market and excess inventory issues continued, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. The HMI held even at 19 this month, its lowest reading since the series began in January 1985.

From: Single Family Starts Fall to Lowest Level Since April 1991

Housing Starts Completions Here is a long term graph of starts and completions. Completions follow starts by about 6 to 7 months.

Look at what is about to happen to completions: Completions were at a 1,344 million rate in November, but are about to follow starts to below the 1.2 million level. I'd expect completions to fall rapidly over the next few months, impacting residential construction employment.

From: November New Home Sales

According to the Census Bureau report, New Home Sales in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647 thousand. Sales for October were revised down to 711 thousand, from 728 thousand. Numbers for August and September were also revised down.
New Home Sales Sales of new one-family houses in November 2007 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000 ... This is 9.0 percent below the revised October rate of 711,000 and is 34.4 percent below the November 2006 estimate of 987,000.
New Home Sales
The Not Seasonally Adjusted monthly rate was 46,000 New Homes sold. There were 71,000 New Homes sold in November 2006.

November '07 sales were the lowest November since 1995 (46,000).

From: More on New Home Sales

New Home Sales and RecessionsThis graph shows New Home Sales vs. Recession for the last 35 years. New Home sales were falling prior to every recession, with the exception of the business investment led recession of 2001.

This is what we call Cliff Diving!

And this shows why so many economists are concerned about a possible consumer led recession - possibly starting right now.

From: November Existing Home Sales

Existing Home Sales NSA The graph shows the Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA) sales per month for the last 3 years. Note that on an NSA basis, November sales were slightly below October.

The impact of the credit crunch is obvious as sales in September, October and November declined sharply from earlier in the year.

For existing homes, sales are reported at the close of escrow. So November sales were for contracts signed in September and October.

From: More on November Existing Home Sales

New and Existing Home Sales Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the seasonally adjusted annual rate of reported new and existing home sales since 1994. Since sales peaked in the summer of 2005, both new and existing home sales have fallen sharply.

Ignoring the occasional month to month increases, it is clear that sales of both new and existing homes are in free fall.

Existing Home Sales and Inventory, Normalized by Owner Occupied UnitsThe second graph shows the annual sales and year end inventory since 1982 (sales since 1969), normalized by the number of owner occupied units. This shows the annual variability in the turnover of existing homes, with a median of 6% of owner occupied units selling per year.

Currently 6% of owner occupied units would be about 4.6 million existing home sales per year. This indicates that the turnover of existing homes - November sales were at a 5.0 million Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) - is still above the historical median.

This suggests sales will fall much further in 2008.

Happy New Year to All! Best Wishes from CR and Tanta.

Delong: Three cures for three crises

by Calculated Risk on 12/31/2007 03:52:00 PM

From Project Syndicate, Professor DeLong writes: Three cures for three crises

A full-scale financial crisis is triggered by a sharp fall in the prices of a large set of assets that banks and other financial institutions own, or that make up their borrowers' financial reserves. The cure depends on which of three modes define the fall in asset prices.
DeLong discusses what he sees as the three crisis modes: a liquidity crisis, a minor solvency crisis, and a major solvency crisis. DeLong notes:
At the start, the Fed assumed that it was facing a first-mode crisis -- a mere liquidity crisis -- and that the principal cure would be to ensure the liquidity of fundamentally solvent institutions.

But the Fed has shifted over the past two months toward policies aimed at a second-mode crisis -- more significant monetary loosening, despite the risks of higher inflation, extra moral hazard and unjust redistribution.
Clearly this is a solvency crisis, not just a liquidity crisis. Professor Thoma notes:
And, as if on cue, from the WSJ Economics blog:
Liquidity Threat Eases; Solvency Threat Still Looms, WSJ Economics Blog: As 2007 winds down, the much-feared year-end liquidity crisis appears to have been averted thanks to aggressive action by central banks. ... [A]s 2008 begins, it's solvency, not liquidity, that threatens the economy and the financial system. And at the root of the solvency threat is a likely decline in housing prices that will further undermine credit quality. Making banks more confident of their own ability to raise funds is not going to resolve a generalized shrinkage of lending driven by declining collateral values. ...
So now, in Dr. DeLong's view, the question is: Is this a minor solvency crisis or a major solvency crisis? Much depends on how far housing prices fall. A 30% price decline would reduce household real estate asset by about $6 trillion and cause significant losses for lender and investors. That would probably be DeLong's major solvency crisis. His solution:
The third mode is like the second: A bursting bubble or bad news about future productivity or interest rates drives the fall in asset prices. But the fall is larger. Easing monetary policy won't solve this kind of crisis, because even moderately lower interest rates cannot boost asset prices enough to restore the financial system to solvency.

When this happens, governments have two options. First, they can simply nationalize the broken financial system and have the Treasury sort things out -- and reprivatize the functioning and solvent parts as rapidly as possible. Government is not the best form of organization of a financial system in the long term, and even in the short term it is not very good. It is merely the best organization available.

The second option is simply inflation. Yes, the financial system is insolvent, but it has nominal liabilities and either it or its borrowers have some real assets. Print enough money and boost the price level enough, and the insolvency problem goes away without the risks entailed by putting the government in the investment and commercial banking business.

The inflation may be severe, implying massive unjust redistributions and at least a temporary grave degradation in the price system's capacity to guide resource allocation. But even this is almost surely better than a depression.
I don't think it's quite that bad. Even if the losses for investors and lenders reach $1 trillion (a possibility), I think the financial system can absorb those losses. Sure, some players might disappear, and others might have to sell significant assets (or dilute their shareholders), but I don't think the choice is between serious inflation and depression.

Still, I think the "Yikes" tag fits.

Mortgage Crisis Leading to Government Budget Cuts

by Calculated Risk on 12/31/2007 02:23:00 PM

From Stephanie Simon at the LA Times: Mortgage crisis takes a bite out of states and cities First, kudos to Ms. Simon for calling it a "mortgage crisis" and not falling into the subprime reporting trap!

Dozens of states, counties and cities across the nation will enter the new year facing deep and unexpected budget holes as the widening mortgage crisis cuts sharply into tax revenue.
The mortgage crisis cuts into tax revenue in several ways.

The most obvious victim is property tax collection. Homeowners in foreclosure don't pay taxes on time. And as foreclosures spread, property values drop -- dragging down assessments and collections.
Even more distressing to budget planners is the decline in sales tax revenue. If people aren't buying homes, they're not buying refrigerators and washing machines to furnish them.
There are many details in the article. And imagine what will happen if the economy slides into recession?

Also, the LA Times has an article on a mortgage fraud ring in Los Angeles hat apparently obtained $142 million in fraudulent loans: How a bank fell victim to loan fraud. An amazing story.

More on November Existing Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 12/31/2007 12:52:00 PM

For more existing home sales graphs, please see the earlier post: November Existing Home Sales

Occasionally during the housing bust, we have seen months with flat or even rising sales compared to the previous month. This brings out the bottom callers. As an example, from NAR today:

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market appears to be stabilizing. “Near term, existing-home sales should continue to hover in a narrow range, just as they have since September, and that’s good news because it’ll be a further sign that the housing market is stabilizing.”
New and Existing Home Sales Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the seasonally adjusted annual rate of reported new and existing home sales since 1994. Since sales peaked in the summer of 2005, both new and existing home sales have fallen sharply.

Ignoring the occasional month to month increases, it is clear that sales of both new and existing homes are in free fall.

Existing Home Sales and Inventory, Normalized by Owner Occupied UnitsThe second graph shows the annual sales and year end inventory since 1982 (sales since 1969), normalized by the number of owner occupied units. This shows the annual variability in the turnover of existing homes, with a median of 6% of owner occupied units selling per year.

Currently 6% of owner occupied units would be about 4.6 million existing home sales per year. This indicates that the turnover of existing homes - November sales were at a 5.0 million Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) - is still above the historical median.

This suggests sales will fall much further in 2008.

On inventory: the normal seasonal pattern is for inventory of existing homes to peak in the summer, remain fairly flat through the Fall, and then decline significantly (usually around 15%) in December. Many potential home sellers take their homes off the market during the holidays.

Then usually inventory starts increasing again in the new year. If inventory follows the normal pattern, we will probably see a decline to 3.7 million units or so in December (from 4.273 million units in November). This will bring out even more bottom callers, but it is just the normal seasonal pattern.

November Existing Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 12/31/2007 10:00:00 AM

The NAR reports that Existing Home sales were at 5 million (SAAR) unit rate in November.

Total existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 5.00 million units in November from an upwardly revised pace of 4.98 million in October, but are 20.0 percent below the 6.25 million-unit level in November 2006.
Existing Home Sales NSA Click on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA) sales per month for the last 3 years. Note that on an NSA basis, November sales were slightly below October.

The impact of the credit crunch is obvious as sales in September, October and November declined sharply from earlier in the year.

For existing homes, sales are reported at the close of escrow. So November sales were for contracts signed in September and October.

Existing Home Inventory The second graph shows nationwide inventory for existing homes. According to NAR, inventory was down slightly at 4.273 million homes for sale in November.
Total housing inventory declined 3.6 percent at the end of November to 4.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.3-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.7-month supply in October.
This is a slight decrease in the inventory level from the last few months, and the months of supply also decreased slightly to 10.3.

This is the normal historical pattern for inventory - inventory peaks at the end of summer and then stay fairly flat until the holidays (it then usually declines somewhat). This says nothing about the increasing anxiety of sellers and the rising foreclosure sales.

Existing Home Sales Months of Supply
This wasn't true in 2005 - as inventory continued to increase throughout the year - and that was one of the indicators that the housing boom had ended.

The third graph shows the 'months of supply' metric for the last six years.

Even if inventory levels stabilize, the months of supply could continue to rise - and possibly rise significantly - if sales continue to decline.

The fourth graph shows monthly sales (SAAR) since 1993.

Existing Home Sales This shows sales have now fallen to the level of December 2000.

More later today on existing home sales.

Gambling? In A Casino?

by Tanta on 12/31/2007 07:01:00 AM

It's shocking. Via naked capitalism, this jewel from the WSJ on subprime lender-sponsored lobbying efforts against predatory lending regulation:

Washington lobbyist Wright Andrews and his wife, Lisa, coordinated much of the industry's lobbying. Mr. Andrews's firm, Butera & Andrews, collected at least $4 million in fees from the subprime industry from 2002 through 2006, congressional lobbying reports indicate. Mr. Andrews didn't represent Ameriquest directly. He ran three different subprime-industry trade groups: the National Home Equity Mortgage Association, of which Ameriquest was a member; the Coalition for Fair and Affordable Lending, which spent $6.3 million lobbying against state laws before it dissolved earlier this year, according to federal filings; and the Responsible Mortgage Lending Coalition.

In 2003, Lisa Andrews was appointed senior vice president for government affairs at Ameriquest. Her public-relations firm, Washington Communications Group Inc., claims credit on its Web site for coordinating the industry's victory in New Jersey, as well as its overall strategy at the state level. Ms. Andrews left Ameriquest in 2005 and returned to her firm. . . .

In the wake of the collapse of the subprime market, Mr. Andrews's subprime lobbying business has withered. The three trade groups he ran are gone, and most of his subprime clients have stopped lobbying.

"I certainly was not aware of the degree to which many in the industry clearly failed to follow proper underwriting standards -- the standards which they represented they were following to those of us who were lobbying," Mr. Andrews says.
Here's a hint, Mr. Andrews. When a regulation is proposed that says lenders should adopt a certain underwriting standard, and the industry responds by saying "we already do it that way," and then pays you $4 million to stop that regulation from being enacted, you actually have some reason to believe they're pulling your leg. No, really.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shiller: America could plunge into recession

by Calculated Risk on 12/30/2007 08:13:00 PM

From The Times: Top economist says America could plunge into recession

Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University, predicted that there was a very real possibility that the US would be plunged into a Japan-style slump, with house prices declining for years.

Professor Shiller, co-founder of the respected S&P Case/Shiller house-price index, said: “American real estate values have already lost around $1 trillion [£503 billion]. That could easily increase threefold over the next few years. This is a much bigger issue than sub-prime. We are talking trillions of dollars’ worth of losses.”
We have to distinguish between various measures of house prices. Shiller is using the Case-Shiller National index to derive the $1 trillion in lost real estate values. Total household real estate assets were over $20 trillion at the peak, so a decline of $1 trillion is about 5%. (The S&P Case-Shiller national index showed a decline of 5% from the peak through Q3).

House Price DeclinesClick on graph for larger image.

This graph, from an earlier post, compares the S&P/Case-Shiller index with the OFHEO index.

The Fed Flow of Funds report is more closely tied to the OFHEO index. The most recent Fed report showed a decline of $67.2B in existing household real estate assets in Q3.

We also have to distinguish between lender / investor mortgage related losses (see the previous post on Merrill) and household real estate value losses. The former impacts the credit crunch directly, the later will probably impact consumer spending and the ability of homeowners to withdraw equity from their homes.

As Shiller notes, we could easily be talking about several trillion in lost real estate values. A 15% average decline in prices, would mean $3 trillion in losses. A 30% price decline would mean a decline of around $6 trillion in U.S. household real estate assets.

Report: Merrill Seeks More Money

by Calculated Risk on 12/30/2007 08:08:00 PM

From the Observer: Merrill seeks more funds to avoid crisis (hat tip AllenM)

John Thain, the new chief executive of Merrill Lynch, is this weekend in talks with Chinese and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds that could lead to the sale of another big stake in the US bank in a desperate bid to raise capital, according to sources in London and New York.
Sources close to Merrill Lynch say that Thain has cancelled New Year leave among his top lieutenants and that his team is working around the clock on various 'scenarios' that could be employed to save the bank if problems related to the credit crunch continue to worsen.
Fears are mounting that Merrill Lynch will be forced to write down between $10bn and $15bn worth of assets related to CDOs ... when it reports financial results next month.
Just a rumor at this point ...

GSE Tightening Starts to Hit Home

by Calculated Risk on 12/30/2007 12:42:00 PM

Back in November, Tanta discussed the details of the new GSE loan pricing: GSEs Tighten Up Loan Pricing. The new rules are for loans delivered on or after March 1, 2008, however, as Tanta noted:

... these March deadlines are for loans delivered to the GSEs on that date, not loans made on that date. Therefore, these pricing adjustments will be made to lender rate sheets signficantly before March.
These changes have just started to impact borrowers. From the Boston Globe: Preapproved and ready to move? Not so fast
Justin Moore had done his research when he set out to buy a condo. The 25-year-old said it even seemed easy when he got preapproved for a loan, found the perfect condo in Beacon Hill this fall, and readied for his December move.

But just one week before his scheduled closing, the mortgage company that for weeks had assured him he was all set told him there were problems.
This is just the beginning of those pricing adjustments:
"Most of our customers have been unscathed at this point," said Rosemary O'Neil, vice president of Conway Financial Services in Norwell and past president of the Massachusetts Mortgage Association. "But after the first of the year, that changes across the board."

In January, most companies will have adopted new standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises that serve as the largest sources of funding for US home mortgages.
This will lead to another ratchet down in demand for housing, starting in January. For the details of the pricing changes, see Tanta's earlier post.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Let the Short Sale Scams Begin

by Tanta on 12/29/2007 08:35:00 PM

Thanks to reader Brad, who sent me the link to this Broker Outpost thread. I suggest reading the replies, too.

I got an agreement of sale today from a realtor looking for a prequal on a shortsale , the buyer lives next door , he has a current mortgage for $800,000 on a home he purchase in 2005 with no money down , the home he has under contact is right across the street from his present home , the offer is for $500,000 and it looks like the bank will accept it

The borrower plans to buy it as a primary , once he moves in , they will stop making payments on the $800,000 loan that they have with CW
He qualifies full doc and has a 770 FICO , he figues letting his credit tank is not a big deal when he is lowering his mortgage debt by $300,000 .

I told him the new bank may deny the deal based on occupancy , tried to convince him to go NOO but he does not want the higher rate .

What do you think ? anyone had this scenario yet , I sure it will be happening more and more especially in CA and FL

Looking back at 2007 Housing Predictions

by Calculated Risk on 12/29/2007 04:54:00 PM

At the end of 2006, I offered some predictions for housing in 2007. Looking back it's hard to believe these predictions were out of the mainstream.

My overall view for the 2007 housing market was "falling prices, falling sales, falling residential construction employment, falling starts, falling MEW, falling percentage of equity, and rising foreclosures".

I expected that "existing home sales will "surprise" to the downside, perhaps in the 5.6 to 5.8 million unit range". It now looks like existing home sales will be close to 5.6 million.

I expected prices to fall "1% to 3% nationwide" as measured by OFHEO. OFHEO reports that the Purchase Only index are up 1.1% for the first three quarters, with prices falling in Q3. It now looks like OFHEO prices will be about flat for the year. Another index, S&P / Case-Shiller, shows prices down 3.7% through the first three quarters of 2007.

I also argued "Foreclosures will be approaching record levels in some states." If anything, I was too optimistic on foreclosures. In California, Notice of Default activity is well above previous record levels.

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the NODs filed in California since 1992. For 2007, the number is estimated at the total for the first 3 quarters (46,670 in Q1, 53,943 in Q2, and 72,571 in Q3) plus an estimate of Q4 at the same rate as Q3.
California Notice of Defaults (NODs)
The second graph shows the NODs normalized by the approximate number of owner occupied units in California. Normalized, 2007 foreclosure activity is 33% higher than '96 (the previous record year), as opposed to 51% higher in nominal numbers.California Notice of Defaults (NODs)

And my biggest error was on residential construction employment. I argued:
"We will see record residential construction job losses in 2007.

... the loss of 400K to 600K residential construction employment jobs over the next 6 months."
According to the BLS, residential construction employment has only fallen 222K in 2007. I've been showing this graph all year:

Housing Starts Completions EmploymentThis graph shows starts, completions and residential construction employment. (starts are shifted 6 months into the future). Completions and residential construction employment were highly correlated, and Completions typically lag Starts by about 6 months.

There are many reasons why the BLS reported employment hasn't fallen as far as expected (blue line). Some of the possible explanations include: the BLS has not correctly accounted for illegal immigrants working in the construction industry, the BLS Birth/Death model might have missed the turning point in residential construction employment, many workers have moved to commercial work, and many workers (subcontractors) are underemployed.

There is some merit to to all of these arguments, and I think the answer will be some combination of these explanations. The concern now is that if commercial construction spending slows, as appears likely from the recent Fed loan survey, then workers that have moved to commercial construction will have no work opportunities.

This was the concern expressed by the director of forecasting of the NAHB in August. From Reuters: Construction job losses could top 1 million
"The ability of nonresidential to continue absorbing additional workers is going to be limited, and that's going to put downward pressure on construction employment overall," [Bernard Markstein, director of forecasting at the National Association of Home Builders] said, adding that cuts may be deeper than in the 1990s.
Whatever the reason, I was too pessimistic on residential construction employment in 2007.

And finally, for amusement, Jon Lansner at the O.C. Register interviews local economist Mark Schniepp: Economist eyes home sales pickup in ‘08. This is an amazing quote:
A year ago, we didn’t know what a subprime loan was, nor did anyone expect the likelihood of a “credit crunch.”
Economist Mark Schniepp, Dec 29, 2007
Oh yeah.

Tanta and I have been writing about subprime loans for as long as this blog has existed. And as far as a credit crunch, back in January I mentioned the possibility of "a credit crunch based on bad loans in the RE sector (and possibly in CRE and C&D too)".

And many others were discussing these issues too.

We all make errors in forecasting - no one has a crystal ball - but I'm endlessly amused by the 'no one could have known' excuse.

On Option ARMs

by Tanta on 12/29/2007 02:15:00 PM

This is a bonus post for those of you who use Excel (or some other software with which you can read and play with .xls files). I'm afraid that those of you who do not possess such software will have to use your imagination here. It's not especially practical to post images of big spreadsheets on the blog, so if you want to see the numbers, you'll need to download the spreadsheets.

These links will download the spreadsheets:

LIBOR-Indexed OA Projection

MTA-Indexed OA Projection

I made two of them for you to play with. Both show a to-date balance history, plus a future balance projection, for a hypothetical Option ARM with payments beginning in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, or 2007. The loan terms are identical for each spreadsheet with the exception of the index chosen: one uses MTA, the other 1-Month LIBOR. The terms of these scenarios are in fact derived from real loan products out there, but of course there are other ways of structuring OAs. I am not making a claim about what product structure was most common (or most likely still to be on the books), as I don't have that kind of data.

What I had in mind for this exercise is to help people see, clearly, how these things work (some folks are still, Lord love you, a bit confused about OA mechanics. That undoubtedly includes some of you who have one. Remember that if you do, your loan might not work like this because the note you signed might have different terms regarding adjustment frequency, balance cap, margin, etc.) Besides that, I wanted to make a fairly simple point about the issue of resets, payment shock, and timing on these things.

That's why the spreadsheets show multiple vintages with identical loan terms: you can see that the actual speed of negative amortization and the forecast date of recast on these loans varies quite dramatically for the vintages, because of the huge impact of the very low 2002-2003 rate cycle. Each of these scenarios assumes that the borrower always makes the minimum payment from inception of the loan, and each assumes that future index values are identical to the most recent available index value (December 2007). Yet even in those circumstances, the earlier loans (2002 and 2003, especially) negatively amortize much more slowly than the later vintages.

My gifted co-blogger has actually created some lovely charts to help make that clear:

OA Balance Projection (Scenario)Click on graph for larger image.

If you've downloaded the spreadsheets, you can play around with them a little in terms of the future interest rates on these loans, and you can see how the recast date (the date the balance hits the balance cap and the loan payment must be recast to fully amortize over the remaining term) moves forward or back depending on what you do with the rates. This is one reason why modeling actual portfolios of OAs is such a challenge: you have to make assumptions about what will happen with the underlying index.

Of course, in actual portfolio modeling, you would also not assume that every borrower will always make the minimum payment. You would have to look at actual borrower performance to date, and calculate some "average" behavior or project each borrower's past behavior patterns into the future. I am not making the claim that all borrowers always make the minimum payment from inception; I'm trying to show what would happen, in some examples, if a borrower did that. I have heard estimates from different OA portfolios of anywhere from one-third to ninety percent of borrowers who have, historically, done that.

One other thing I wanted to make clear by providing these examples is the mechanics of payment increases for a very common OA type. The product shown in these spreadsheets allows for annual payment increases, but monthly rate increases. (That is how the potential for negative amortization gets created: the payment does not automatically adjust to match the new interest rate each month.) The eventual recast hits at the sooner of the loan reaching 115% of its original balance or 120 months. We know that a recast is nearly always a huge shock, given a low enough introductory rate. But this loan does involve payment increases of up to 7.5% each year (i.e., the next year's payment can be as much as 107.5% of the prior year's payment).

With the later vintage loans, especially, I for one have no confidence that the borrower was qualified at realistic enough original DTIs to withstand several years of payment increases, even before that nasty shock of the recast.

You may if you like change that introductory rate on these loans--I used 1.00%. You will see that increasing that introductory rate actually slows down the negative amortization in most scenarios. (That is because it creates a higher initial first year payment, which thus creates less of a shortfall between interest accrued and payment made.) I suspect that this fact about OA is surprising to some people, who think that folks who got a 1.00% "teaser" on these things got some real deal. In reality, a borrower who was given an introductory rate several points higher than that is probably doing much better, balance-wise.

My scenarios involve the assumption that the initial payment is fixed for only one year. There are OAs out there where the first payment change is two or even up to five years from the first payment date. (They will generally involve a higher introductory rate and margin.) You can change these spreadsheets to extend the original payment out for longer than a year, if you like, and you'll see just how much faster that balance cap hits when you extend the fixed payment period. Ouch.

Finally, while I chose the repayment periods I did quite arbitrarily, you will notice that for both the MTA and LIBOR scenarios, the most recent index value (December 2007) is substantially lower than it had been for quite some time. This means that my balance forecast here just happens to have picked up a relatively low last known index to project out into the future. Had we done this exercise several months ago, the projected future index value would have been higher, and hence the future negative amortization would have been faster. It's an issue to keep in mind as we look at portfolio and security projections regarding OA recasts; those will have to be updated from time to time as rate history unfolds.

And yes, there's a pig, if that makes you want to bother downloading the spreadsheets.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fed gives Tanta a Hat Tip

by Calculated Risk on 12/28/2007 07:00:00 PM

From Adam Ashcraft and Til Schuermann: Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit

See page 13:

Several point raised in this section were first raised in a 20 February 2007 post on the blog entitled “Mortgage Servicing for Ubernerds.”
Note: there is link in the menu bar for Tanta's UberNerd series: The Compleat UberNerd.

Here is the introduction:
How does one securitize a pool of mortgages, especially subprime mortgages? What is the process from origination of the loan or mortgage to the selling of debt instruments backed by a pool of those mortgages? What problems creep up in this process, and what are the mechanisms in place to mitigate those problems? This paper seeks to answer all of these questions. Along the way we provide an overview of the market and some of the key players, and provide an extensive discussion of the important role played by the credit rating agencies.

In Section 2, we provide a broad description of the securitization process and pay special attention to seven key frictions that need to be resolved. Several of these frictions involve moral hazard, adverse selection and principal-agent problems. We show how each of these frictions is worked out, though as evidenced by the recent problems in the subprime mortgage market, some of those solutions are imperfect. In Section 3, we provide an overview of subprime mortgage credit; our focus here is on the subprime borrower and the subprime loan. We offer, as an example a pool of subprime mortgages New Century securitized in June 2006. We discuss how predatory lending and predatory borrowing (i.e. mortgage fraud) fit into the picture. Moreover, we examine subprime loan performance within this pool and the industry, speculate on the impact of payment reset, and explore the ABX and the role it plays. In Section 4, we examine subprime mortgage-backed securities, discuss the key structural features of a typical securitization, and, once again illustrate how this works with reference to the New Century securitization. We finish with an examination of the credit rating and rating monitoring process in Section 5. Along the way we reflect on differences between corporate and structured credit ratings, the potential for pro-cyclical credit enhancement to amplify the housing cycle, and document the performance of subprime ratings. Finally, in Section 6, we review the extent to which investors rely upon on credit rating agencies views, and take as a typical example of an investor: the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund.

We reiterate that the views presented here are our own and not those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. And, while the paper focuses on subprime mortgage credit, note that there is little qualitative difference between the securitization and ratings process for Alt-A and home equity loans. Clearly, recent problems in mortgage markets are not confined to the subprime sector.
This report is recommended reading to understand the entire securitization process. Congratulations to Tanta, and hopefully she will comment on the report.

Also note the last two sentences of the introduction: "... while the paper focuses on subprime mortgage credit, note that there is little qualitative difference between the securitization and ratings process for Alt-A and home equity loans ... recent problems in mortgage markets are not confined to the subprime sector."

Legg Mason Bails Out Cash Funds

by Calculated Risk on 12/28/2007 06:57:00 PM

From Bloomberg: Legg Mason Shores Up Cash Funds With $1.12 Billion

Legg Mason Inc. pumped $1.12 billion into two non-U.S. cash funds to prevent losses, the biggest bailout by a money manager tied to asset-backed debt sold by structured investment vehicles.

The move, along with an earlier cash infusion, will reduce earnings per share by 15 cents in the quarter ending Dec. 31, the Baltimore-based company said today in a statement.
The Confessional is still open.

$1 Trillion in Mortgage Losses?

by Calculated Risk on 12/28/2007 03:40:00 PM

Update: added comments from Tanta at bottom.

Several recent articles have referenced my post on the possibility of a change in attitude towards foreclosure. I wrote:

One of the greatest fears for lenders (and investors in mortgage backed securities) is that it will become socially acceptable for upside down middle class Americans to walk away from their homes.
Although the purpose of the post was to discuss changing social norms, the primary reason the post was mentioned was because of some pretty big numbers, like the possibility of $1 trillion in mortgage losses based on a few rough assumptions. A couple of quotes:

Australia Americans 'walk' from loans
Late last week ... Calculated Risk figured that housing losses might reach $US1 trillion and even $US2 trillion.
WSJ: How High Will Subprime Losses Go?
Back in the U.S., the Calculated Risk blog sidestepped the colorful language and went straight for the big number: “The losses for the lenders and investors might well be over $1 trillion.”
The $1 trillion number is a simple calculation: If prices fall 30%, then approximately 20 million U.S. homeowners will be upside down on their mortgages. If half of these homeowners walk away from their homes, with an average 50% loss to lenders and investors, that is $1 trillion in losses (the average mortgage is just over $200K).

This wasn't a forecast, just a simple exercise to show why changing social norms is very scary for the lenders.

And this isn't just a subprime problem, and these aren't just potential "subprime losses". In the original post I referred to the potential of foreclosures becoming "socially acceptable" for the middle class.

But even though the problems have spread far beyond suprime, some reporters are stuck on the subprime meme. As an example, Bloomberg columnist John M. Berry wrote: Subprime Losses Are Big, Exaggerated by Some
As the U.S. savings and loan crisis worsened in the 1980s, analysts tried to top each other's estimates of the debacle's cost to the federal government.

Much the same thing is happening now with losses linked to subprime mortgages, with figures of $300 billion to $400 billion being bandied about.

A more realistic amount is probably half or less than those exaggerated projections -- say $150 billion. That's hardly chicken feed, though not nearly enough to sink the U.S. economy.

A loss of $150 billion would be less than 12 percent of the approximately $1.3 trillion in subprime mortgages outstanding. About $800 billion of those are adjustable-rate mortgages, the remainder fixed rate.
This is subprime reporting. It's absurd to think that mortgage losses will only come from subprime loans; in fact most of the upside down homeowners will be Alt-A and prime borrowers. By focusing solely on subprime, Berry misses the larger mortgage problem.

And the credit problems extend well beyond mortgages. As an example, from Bloomberg this morning: Citigroup, Goldman Cut LBO Backlog With 10% Discounts
Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are offering discounts of as much as 10 cents on the dollar to clear a $231 billion backlog of high-yield bonds and loans.
We don't know the exact haircut on each LBO deal, but an average 5% haircut would be over $10 billion in losses. And there are losses coming from corporate debt, CRE loans, and other consumer debt too. As Floyd Norris asked at the NY Times this morning: Credit Crisis? Just Wait for a Replay
"... just how different was subprime lending from other lending in the days of easy money that prevailed until this summer?"
Short answer: not very.

Back to mortgage losses, both Felix Salmon: Are Subprime Losses Being Exaggerated? and Paul Krugman, Jingle mail, jingle mail, jingle mail — eek! bring up a key issue: recourse vs. non-recourse loans. Felix writes:
... no one is going to have a real handle on mortgage losses unless and until someone manages to get a handle on the percentage of mortgage loans which are non-recourse. If your house falls in value and you have a non-recourse mortgage, then it makes perfect economic sense for someone in a negative-equity situation to simply walk away – something known as "jingle mail". But given the amount of refinancing going on during the last few years of the mortgage boom, I suspect that the vast majority of mortgages are not non-recourse. (Refis are never non-recourse.)
This is an important issue. In California, purchase money is non-recourse. If the borrower walks away and mails in the keys (Fleckenstein's "jingle mail"), the lender is stuck with the collateral. However, if the California borrower refinanced, then the lender has recourse, and can pursue a judicial foreclosure (as opposed to a trustee's sale), and seek a deficiency judgment.

The lender can enforce that deficiency judgment by attaching other assets, or by garnishing the borrower's wages. Historically lenders rarely pursued (or enforced) deficiency judgments, but that could change if many middle class borrowers, with solid jobs and assets, resort to jingle mail.

For purchase money, state law determines the recourse vs. non-recourse issue. As Felix noted, refis are always recourse, and there was significant refi activity in recent years.

But before we think most loans are recourse, we have to remember that about 22.3 million homes were purchased during the last 3 years (2005 through 2007), and in a period of rising rates, many of these homeowners probably did not refi. It's difficult to estimate the exact losses - since we don't know the percent of recourse loans, we don't know how far prices will fall, and we don't know how homeowners will react to being upside down - but we know the losses will be significant.

Note: I'm trying to find a state by state list of recourse vs. non-recourse for purchase money.

On recourse loans, Tanta adds (via email):
I suspect that you will have some very aggressive lenders and some not very aggressive lenders in that respect.

Which will tell you who thinks it doesn't have a fraud problem and who does.

Back in my day working for a servicer, we never went after a borrower unless we thought the borrower defrauded us, willfully junked the property, or something like that. If it was just a nasty RE downturn, it rarely even made economic sense to do judicial FCs just to get a judgment the borrower was unlikely to able to pay. You could save so much time and money doing a non-judicial FC (if the state allowed it) that it was worth skipping the deficiency. Plus we had a soft spot, I guess.

At any rate, the absolute all time last possible thing you could get me to do is send an attorney barging into court demanding a deficiency judgment if I had any reason whatsoever to fear that my own effing loan officer was implicated in fraud on the original loan application. Any borrower with half a brain will raise that as a defense, and any judge even slightly awake will not only deny the deficiency but probably make the lender pay all costs, or worse. And I'd call that justice.

This goes double if the loan was made as a "stated asset" deal. I can just hear a judge asking me why I deserve to get other assets now when I never bothered to make sure the borrower had any in the beginning.

So yes, some people will get hit with a deficiency. But I'm not sure it will be as many as you might think. T

Thornberg: Housing prices are headed way down

by Calculated Risk on 12/28/2007 01:57:00 PM

Dr. Christopher Thornberg writes in the LA Times: Realty reality: Housing prices are headed way down

In 2002, the median price of a single-family home in Los Angeles was $270,000 and the median homeowner's income was $65,000. With a $50,000 down payment, the annual cost of that house (taxes, insurance and payment on a 30-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage) would add up to about 33% of the median household's income -- just under the 35% mark that the Federal Housing Administration calls the upper limit of "affordable."

By 2006, the cost of that same house doubled, to $540,000 -- pushed by unbridled speculation fueled by unparalleled access to mortgage capital. But median income rose a paltry 15%. So today that same set of costs come to 60% of gross income.

... Prices must and will fall. Everywhere. Probably 25% to 30% from their peak.
I believe Thornberg's price forecast is for Los Angeles. It appears his "everywhere" comment is referring to all the neighborhoods in LA.

More on New Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 12/28/2007 11:01:00 AM

First, a couple of key points to consider on housing.

Note: For more graphs, please see my earlier post: November New Home Sales

Let's start with revisions. This month (November) is one of the few months were the initial report wasn't higher than the previous month. Usually the small reported gain in sales is then revised away in subsequent releases.

Look at the report today (for November), the Census Bureau revised down sales for August, September and October. This has been the pattern for most of the housing bust; almost all the revisions have been down. I believe the Census Bureau is doing a good job, but the users of the data need to understand what is happening (during down trends, the Census Bureau initially overestimates sales).

For an analysis on Census Bureau revisions, see the bottom of this post.

Next up, inventory. The Census Bureau reported that inventory was 505 thousand units. But this excludes the impact of cancellations. Currently the inventory of new homes is understated by about 100K (See this post for an analysis of the impact of cancellations on inventory).

This also means that the months of supply is understated. The Census Bureau reported the months of supply as 9.3 months. After adjusting for the impact of cancellations, the actual months of supply is probably closer to 11.3 months.

New Home Sales and RecessionsClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows New Home Sales vs. Recession for the last 35 years. New Home sales were falling prior to every recession, with the exception of the business investment led recession of 2001.

This is what we call Cliff Diving!

And this shows why so many economists are concerned about a possible consumer led recession - possibly starting right now.

The second graph compares annual New Home Sales vs. Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA) New Home Sales through November.

New Home Sales
Typically, for an average year, about 93% of all new home sales happen before the end of November. Therefore the scale on the right is set to 93% of the left scale.

Through November, there have been 732 thousand New Home sales, and, with one month to go (and a few revisions) it looks like New Home sales for 2007 will be around 775 thousand - the lowest level since 1996 (758K in '96).

November New Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 12/28/2007 10:00:00 AM

According to the Census Bureau report, New Home Sales in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647 thousand. Sales for October were revised down to 711 thousand, from 728 thousand. Numbers for August and September were also revised down.

New Home SalesClick on Graph for larger image.

Sales of new one-family houses in November 2007 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000 ... This is 9.0 percent below the revised October rate of 711,000 and is 34.4 percent below the November 2006 estimate of 987,000.
New Home Sales
The Not Seasonally Adjusted monthly rate was 46,000 New Homes sold. There were 71,000 New Homes sold in November 2006.

November '07 sales were the lowest November since 1995 (46,000).
New Home Sales PricesThe median and average sales prices are generally declining. Caution should be used when analyzing monthly price changes since prices are heavily revised and do not include builder incentives.

The median sales price of new houses sold in November 2007 was $239,100; the average sales price was $293,300.
New Home Sales InventoryThe seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of November was 505,000.

The 505,000 units of inventory is slightly below the levels of the last year.

Inventory numbers from the Census Bureau do not include cancellations - and cancellations are once again at record levels. Actual New Home inventories are probably much higher than reported - my estimate is about 100K higher.
New Home Sales Months of InventoryThis represents a supply of 9.3
months at the current sales rate.

This is another VERY weak report for New Home sales. All revisions continue to be down. This is the fourth report after the start of the credit turmoil, and, as expected, the sales numbers are very poor.

I expect these numbers to be revised down too. More later today on New Home Sales.

Option ARM Tightening

by Tanta on 12/28/2007 08:45:00 AM

A quite decent piece on Option ARMs in the LA Times. I liked this part:

Despite such risks, the initial low payments on option ARMs have kept a lid on serious delinquencies -- 3.7% of all option ARMs, Standard & Poor's analysts said in a report last week. That's higher than before, but still low compared with the 6.3% delinquency rate on loans to good-credit borrowers with so-called hybrid ARMs, which have a low fixed rate for two to 10 years before becoming adjustable-rate loans.

At Calabasas-based Countrywide Financial Corp., which S&P said made about a quarter of all option ARMs last year, 3% of such loans held by the lender as investments were delinquent at least 90 days, up tenfold from 0.3% a year earlier. Delinquency rates were even higher on option ARMs from other lenders, including Pasadena-based IndyMac Bancorp and Seattle's Washington Mutual Inc., S&P said.

Countrywide and other lenders tightened their lending standards last summer to ensure borrowers could afford loans after the interest rates adjusted upward.

Had those guidelines been in effect previously, Countrywide recently said, it would have rejected 89% of the option ARM loans it made in 2006, amounting to $64 billion, and $74 billion, or 83%, of those it made in 2005.
I made an argument a while ago that focussing regulator attention exclusively on disclosure documents can be just a touch beside the point if lenders are no longer offering the product in question. You have to wonder, if we just cut off 80-90% of the OA borrower pool, whether the remaining 10% really need those new and improved disclosures, or can muddle along with the ones already in use. If you take the OA out of the mass market and put it back into the high-net worth, high-income crowd it was originally designed for, you might find that your borrowers are already selected to be people who either read and understand disclosures, or who hire an attorney or financial planner to read them. I can certainly think of better uses for regulators' time and energy than fooling around with disclosure documents that would be clear to borrowers who are now in a rather different kind of trouble than not understanding the teaser rate on their OA.

The other thing to notice is that the obligatory example borrower supplied in the article is having trouble with her first payment increase (the typical 7.5% annual increase in the minimum payment), which is still not enough to cover all the interest due. As that sort of situation increases (as more and more 2005-2006 vintage OAs get to their second or third payment increase), we'll start seeing defaults long before the recast date.

Speaking of which, when I am not making cartoon pigs I have been creating some spreadsheets to show examples of how to project the recast date on Option ARMs. That's total and compleat Nerd territory, but if anyone is interested I'll post them (as spreadsheets or as images thereof). You tell me whether that's more detail than you can stand or not.

Welcome to Our World

by Tanta on 12/28/2007 08:14:00 AM

Floyd Norris, New York Times, December 28, 2007:

What if it’s not just subprime?

Gee Willikers. If it's not just subprime, there might be enough material in it to, oh, fill a whole blog. Or several dozen of them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Homebuilder TOUSA Sees Rating Reduction, BK Being "Considered"

by Calculated Risk on 12/27/2007 02:56:00 PM

Update: from Reuters: Moody's may cut Technical Olympic deeper into junk (hat tip Mike)

From Bloomberg (no link yet, hat tip Brian): TOUSA, Florida Homebuilder, May See Rating Reduction

TOUSA ... will see its debt rating slashed to default status if it fails to make Jan. 1 interest payments on senior notes, Standard & Poor's said today.
TOUSA is considering several restructuring options, including a potential Chapter 11 filing, S&P said.
TOUSA was the #13 largest builder in 2006 according to BuilderOnline. I believe the largest home builder to go bankrupt so far was #50 Levitt & Sons. Here is the BuilderOnline top 100.

Discount Rate Spread: Credit Crisis Continues

by Calculated Risk on 12/27/2007 01:02:00 PM

From the Fed weekly report on commercial paper this morning, here is the discount rate spread:

Discount Rate SpreadClick on graph for larger image.

According to the Fed, the discount rate spread is 145 bps. This graph was released this morning.

Here is a simple explanation of this chart: This is the spread between high and low quality 30 day nonfinancial commercial paper.

What is commercial paper (CP)? This is short term paper - less than 9 months, but usually much shorter duration like 30 days - that is issued by companies to finance short term needs. Many companies issue CP, and for most of these companies the risk of default is close to zero (think companies like GE or Coke). This is the high quality CP. Here is a good description.

Lower rated companies also issues CP and this is the A2/P2 rating. This doesn't include the Asset Backed CP.

The spread between the A2/P2 and AA paper shows the concern of default for the A2/P2 paper. Right now the spread is indicating that the fear of default is very high. Higher than in August. And higher than after 9/11.

Weekly Unemployment Insurance Claims

by Calculated Risk on 12/27/2007 10:45:00 AM

It's been some time since I graphed the weekly claims numbers.

From the Department of Labor:

In the week ending Dec. 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 349,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 348,000. The 4-week moving average was 342,500, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average of 343,500.
Weekly Unemployment ClaimsClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the weekly claims and the four week moving average of weekly unemployment claims since 1989. The four week moving average has been trending upwards for the last few months, and the level is now approaching the possible recession level (approximately 350K).

Labor related gauges are at best coincident indicators, and this indicator suggests the economy is close to recession.

Out of Foreclosure, In Reverse

by Tanta on 12/27/2007 10:00:00 AM

The WSJ (sub only, I'm afraid) had a piece yesterday on a process it never actually names--the "short refi" (related to the "short sale"). What makes these short refis--refinance transactions where the new loan is less than the balance due on the old loan, with the old lender agreeing to call the loan paid in full and write off the difference--so unusual is that the old loans are nasty high-rate subprime loans to old people, and the new loans are reverse mortgages.

The strategy worked recently for Gloria Forts, a 62-year-old retired federal worker in Forest Park, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. After refinancing her home in August 2006 with a $106,500 mortgage from Fremont Investment & Loan in Brea, Calif., Ms. Forts was facing monthly payments of $950.41. That consumed 70% of her monthly income from Social Security and a pension. Intending to start a new job, she found herself kept at home by diabetes complications and back surgery. In June, she sought help from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

There, she found William J. Brennan Jr., a veteran housing attorney who, over the past 18 months, has developed a sophisticated model for settling subprime debts with reverse mortgages. After Ms. Forts received a foreclosure warning in October, Mr. Brennan connected her with Genie McGee, a reverse-mortgage specialist with Financial Freedom Senior Funding Corp., an Irvine, Calif., unit of IndyMac Bancorp Inc. She determined that Ms. Forts would qualify for a reverse mortgage of about $61,000.

Mr. Brennan sent Fremont's loss-mitigation department a letter proposing that the company agree to take that sum and cancel its plans to foreclose on the house. On Dec. 3, the day before the foreclosure sale was supposed to take place, Fremont agreed to the deal and stopped the foreclosure.
Using a reverse mortgage as a foreclosure workout is certainly unusual. I've written about reverse mortgages here if you're not familiar with the beast. They were designed for older borrowers (the minimum age is 62 for all products I know about) who are house-rich but cash-poor. Using them for borrowers who are house-poor, to prevent foreclosure, isn't exactly what they were intended for. And using them to "create" an equity cushion that they can then absorb in deferred interest is quite the innovation. (Of course the "equity" here isn't being "created"; it's being "donated" by the old lender.)

Then again, it isn't every historical moment in which lenders are willing to accept 57 cents on the dollar on a short refi, either. The key to the reverse mortgage is that the maximum loan amounts are much lower, on the whole, than they are for forward mortgages. (Because the amount that can be borrowed is a function of both the value of the home and the age--the likely remaining lifespan--of the borrower, only the very very old can borrow as much with a reverse mortgage as with a forward mortgage.) The WSJ doesn't give the current appraised value of Ms. Forts' property, but I'd guess that the original LTV of the new $61,000 reverse mortgage is not much more than 50% (suggesting that the old $106,500 mortgage, which apparently carried an interest rate of 10% or so, was around 90% of current value). It says a lot about Fremont's estimate of loss severity that they took the money and ran.

Is this a good deal for Ms. Forts? Well, she gets to stay in her house. (She might describe this as getting to "keep" her house, but the way a maximum-balance reverse mortgage to a 62-year-old borrower is likely to work, statistically, what she just did, in effect, was give the deed to IndyMac while reserving a life estate.) She is highly unlikely ever to be able to withdraw cash again from it; at her age and that loan balance, my guess is that compounding interest on the original balance will far outstrip any possible positive appreciation on that property in Ms. Forts' lifetime, and her heirs will simply hand over the deed to the bank.

What I find mildly amusing is that the WSJ reporter almost, but not quite, gets the issue here:
With a reverse mortgage, the bank makes payments to the homeowner instead of the homeowner making payments to a bank. The loan is repaid, with interest, when the borrower sells the house, moves out permanently or dies. The products are complex and have high fees -- typically about 7% of the home's value -- and they make it difficult for homeowners to leave the property to their heirs. But they may be the best option for people who have built up equity in their home and would otherwise lose it.
Actually, a reverse mortgage doesn't make probate any harder than a forward mortgage does. It's not that it's "difficult" to leave the property to the heirs; it's that the loan amount is likely to be equal to or more than the property's value at that point. Notice the odd phrasing of that last sentence: grammatically, "it" probably refers to "equity," but that of course is going to be lost in all cases (except for borrowers unfortunate enough to die prematurely; one hopes that doesn't make the heirs happy). The only thing a reverse mortgage borrower "keeps," in practical terms, is occupancy.

This is also curious:
The transaction illustrates one of the biggest challenges in getting lenders to accept payouts from reverse mortgages: taking less money than the house may be worth.
My sense is that the WSJ reporter just can't really wrap her mind around the reality of the mortgage and housing markets today. This business of "taking less money than the house may be worth" (as opposed to "taking less than the loan amount") may just be sloppy phraseology, but I think it's kind of sypmtomatic of how hard it really is for some folks to shed the assumptions of the Boom. Short refis are going on all around us, not just with reverse mortgages: a lot of the loans going into FHASecure, for instance, are short (by the amount of some or all of a second lien, often, but in some cases even the first lien payoff is short). I'm surprised that you still have to say this out loud to people, but what "the house is worth" is no longer a particularly relevant concern for a lot of people. The issue is what you owe, and as long as there are places in the world where expected loss severity to lenders can be in the neighborhood of 47% of the loan amount, you probably owe too much.

ACA Gives Control to Regulator

by Calculated Risk on 12/27/2007 09:30:00 AM

From Bloomberg: ACA Gives Control to Regulator to Avert Delinquency

ACA Capital Holdings Inc., the bond insurer that lost its investment-grade credit rating last week, agreed to give control to regulators to avert delinquency proceedings.

ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., a unit of ACA Capital, will seek approval from the Maryland Insurance Administration before pledging or assigning assets or paying dividends, the New York- based company said in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission yesterday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fitch: May Cut Ratings on Insured RMBS

by Calculated Risk on 12/26/2007 10:26:00 PM

From Reuters: Fitch may cut ratings on some insured mortgage bonds

Fitch Ratings on Wednesday said it may cut its ratings on certain residential mortgage-backed securities insured by MBIA Inc, Ambac Assurance Corp, FGIC Corporation and Security Capital Assurance.

Fitch said it may cut 87 MBIA-insured mortgage bonds, 64 Ambac-insured bonds, 35 FGIC-insured bonds and 19 SCA-insured bonds.

Real Estate Brokerage Closes: 2006 "Business of the Year"

by Calculated Risk on 12/26/2007 02:21:00 PM

From "Business of the year" to closed in one year ...

From the AZCentral: Now closed, Re/Max was named 'Business of the Year in '06

The major Valley real estate brokerage that closed its offices days before Christmas had been named Business of the Year last year by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

Re/Max 2000, based in Gilbert, has closed its 13 offices around the Valley, including two in Chandler.

Owner Robert Kline began the company in 2000, and in September 2006, he said his projected sales for that year were $1.2 billion. At that time, he had 11 offices and 450 employees.

Los Angeles Real House Prices

by Calculated Risk on 12/26/2007 02:01:00 PM

The first graph shows real house prices in Los Angeles based on the S&P/Case-Shiller house price index. Nominal prices are adjusted with CPI less shelter from the BLS.

Case-Shiller Los Angeles Real Prices Click on graph for larger image.

After the peak in December 1989, prices in Los Angeles fell 41.4% over about 7 years, in real terms (adjusted for inflation). (Note: using the OFHEO series, real prices declined 34% in LA in the early '90s).

So far, in the current bust, nominal prices have declined almost 9% in LA, and about 12% in real terms.

Case-Shiller Los Angeles Comparing Price Peaks The second graph aligns, in time, the December 1989 price peak with the October 2006 peak.

The horizontal scale is the number of months before and after the price peak.

In 1990, real prices had declined 9.3% during the first 12 months after the price peak. For the current bust, real prices have declined 12% for the same period.

This suggests that price declines have just started, and that there will be several more years of price declines in the bubble areas.

Case-Shiller: Cities with Price Increases

by Calculated Risk on 12/26/2007 11:13:00 AM

The Case-Shiller data (previous post) shows three cities with year-over-year price increases: Charlotte (4.3% increase), Seattle (3.3%), and Portland, OR (1.9%).

Case-Shiller Indices Selected CitiesClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the Case-Shiller prices for these three cities compared to the Case-Shiller composite 10 price index.

All three cities had less appreciation than the composite, the significant price appreciation started later than other areas, and prices appear to be falling in recent months. It appears that all three cities (and all 20 cities in the Case-Shiller index) will be showing year-over-year price declines by spring 2008.

S&P/Case-Shiller: House Prices Fall 6.1%

by Calculated Risk on 12/26/2007 10:04:00 AM

Update: added table of price changes. S&P/Case-Shiller data.

Note that this is the year over year decline (October '06 to October '07) and only for 20 large U.S. metropolitan areas (not the entire U.S.)

From Bloomberg: U.S. Home Prices Fell 6.1% in October, Index Shows

Home prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas fell in October by the most in at least six years, a private survey showed today.

Property values fell 6.1 percent from October 2006, more than forecast, after dropping 4.9 percent in September, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index. The decrease was the biggest since the group started keeping year-over-year records in 2001. The index has fallen every month this year.
CityYear over Year Price Change
Charlotte - NC4.3%
Seattle - WA3.3%
Portland - OR1.9%
Dallas - TX-0.1%
Atlanta - GA-0.7%
New York-4.1%
Cleveland - OH-4.5%
Minneapolis- MN-5.5%
San Francisco-6.2%
Los Angeles -8.8%
Phoenix - AZ-10.6%
Las Vegas-10.7%
San Diego-11.1%
Detroit - MI-11.2%
Tampa - FL-11.8%

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Credit Crunch Hitting CRE

by Calculated Risk on 12/25/2007 09:09:00 PM

From the WSJ: Credit Downturn Hits the Malls (hat tip Houston)

The credit crunch ... is creating problems in commercial real estate, driving down prices of office buildings, shopping malls and apartment complexes ...

For the past few months, the sector has been in a state of near-paralysis ... The number of major properties sold is down by half, and many worry that the market will continue to deteriorate as property sales remain slow, prices continue to drop and deals keep falling apart.
The CMBS market was the engine that drove the commercial real-estate boom. Over the past few years, the issuance of CMBS allowed banks to get rid of the risk on their books, lend with cheaper rates and looser terms and that made it easy for private-equity firms to do huge real-estate deals.
Real-estate investors aren't the only ones feeling the pain. Many big banks issued short-term loans to buyers and planned to sell them off later, much the way they do with loans made to private-equity buyout shops. But the banks have gotten stuck with an estimated $65 billion in fixed- and floating-rate loans on their books, according to J.P. Morgan.
The typical pattern is for CRE to follow residential by about 4 to 7 quarters, so this slowdown is right on schedule. It's important to note that the impact on the economy will come from a slowdown in new CRE construction (non-residential structure investment) and from rising CRE defaults.

The October construction spending report, from the Census Bureau, showed a small decline in private non-residential construction spending, after several years of strong growth.

Construction SpendingClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending since 1993.

Over the last couple of years, as residential spending has declined, nonresidential has been very strong. However it now appears that nonresidential construction may be slowing. This is just one month of data, and one month does not make a trend, but there is other evidence - like the Fed's Loan Officer Survey - that suggests a slowdown in nonresidential has arrived.

The November construction spending report will be released on Jan 2nd.

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Pig

by Calculated Risk on 12/25/2007 07:28:00 PM

From Tanta. A Mortgage Pig™ exclusive. (Warning: this is a 2 MB Excel File)

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Pig

Happy Holidays to All!

A Very Nerdy Christmas

by Tanta on 12/25/2007 09:27:00 AM


From Mortgage Pig™.

I suppose this requires some explanation. Many years and versions of Excel ago, I was in some interminable conference call--I believe we were discussing general ledger interface mapping for HUD-1 line items regarding undisbursed escrow items on the FHA 203(k) in the servicing system upload, or perhaps we were watching paint dry--when I experienced one of those evolutionary breakthroughs for which the human race is justly famous. I stopped doodling on my legal pad and started defacing my spreadsheet. In a word, Excel Art was born.

An entire running gag developed, centered on the character of Mortgage Pig and his Adventures. The Pig you see above is a newer version; the old Pig didn't wear lipstick (old pig was developed before we started selling loans to Wall Street). You can, of course, print these images, but outside of the context of viewing them in Excel, they simply become primitive, childlike doodles of no particular resonance. Viewing them as a spreadsheet, on the other hand, makes them profoundly amusing. Really. There's just nothing like sending someone a file named "GL Error Recon 071597" and having a pig pop up when the workbook is opened for a knee-slapping good time. If you're a hopeless Nerd with no particular aesthetic sensibilities.

Our own regular commenter bacon dreamz, who is also accomplished with Word Art, has (woe betide his employer) become adept at Excel Art as well, under my provocation, and has developed a way cool variation, Excel Movies. This involves creating a large number of worksheets with tediously copied and edited images that, when you ctrl-page down rapidly, create crude animation. It takes a very long series of conference calls to produce a really good Excel Movie, but it can be done. Unfortunately they're hard to display on a blog post. You'll have to take my word for it that they're hysterical.

I wanted to give you all a little Christmas present. Those of you who spend large portions of your day on conference calls with a spreadsheet in front of you and have no consciences will, I hope, be inspired to create your own Excel Art, so that a drab, utilitarian, sometimes soul-destroying corporate existence may be enlivened with wit, creativity, and expropriation of exploited labor. For those of you who don't use Excel, I hope Santa brought you a new box of crayons.

Happy Holidays to all of you.

UPDATE: Because you wanted to know what was on sheet 3.