August 2011


S&P Lowers Fannie, Freddie Credit Rating-Daily Real Estate News | Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit rating of lenders backed by the federal

government on the heels of the first-ever lowering of the U.S.’s credit rating.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-backed lenders were lowered one step from AAA to AA+, S&P reported in a statement issued Monday. Some analysts say the downgrade may force home buyers to pay higher mortgage rates.

“The downgrades of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reflect their direct reliance on the U.S. government,” S&P said in a statement. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into conservatorship in September 2008 and their ability to fund operations relies heavily on the U.S. government.”

The GSEs own or guarantee more than half of U.S. mortgage debt.

Freddie Mac said that the lower debt rating will cause “major disruptions” in its home-lending by possibly reducing the supply of mortgages it can purchase. It said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the lower rating could hamper home prices and even lead to more home-loan defaults on mortgages it guarantees.

Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Monday assured investors that securities issued by GSEs are sound. “The government commitment to ensure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have sufficient capital to meet their obligations, as provided for in the Treasury’s senior preferred stock purchase agreement with each enterprise, remains unaffected by the Standard & Poor’s action,” said Edward DeMarco, FHFA acting director.

Some analysts and lenders have said they don’t see the fallout from the S&P downgrade on the U.S. and other banks as having such a widespread affect. “It’s likely that once the storm passes, you’ll get an increase in mortgage rates because of this, but it won’t be significant,” says Anika Khan, a housing economist at Wells Fargo.

S&P also announced on Monday that it had lowered its credit ratings for 10 of 12 federal home loan banks and federal farm credit banks from AAA to AA+.

Source: “S&P Lowers Fannie, Freddie Citing Reliance on Government,” Bloomberg (Aug. 8, 2011); “S&P Downgrades Fannie and Freddie, Farm Lenders and Bank Debt Backed by U.S. Government,” Associated Press (Aug. 8, 2011); Freddie Mac Reports $4.7B Loss, Says S&P Downgrade Will Disrupt Mortgage Market,” Associated Press (Aug. 8, 2011); and “FHFA Assures Investors After Fannie, Freddie Downgrade,” HousingWire (Aug. 8. 2011)

Read More:
Will the S&P Downgrade Affect Interest Rates?

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Mortgage lending at lowest level since 1997

Despite near-record-low mortgage rates, a combination of factors is depressing the industry. Many people have simply decided homeownership isn’t for them.

 

  • Despite the confluence of lower home prices and rates, new mortgages are down by a third compared with 2010. Lenders will write about $1 trillion in home loans this year, the smallest total since 1997, according to the Mortgage Bankers Assn., which projects home lending will fall even lower in 2012.
Despite the confluence of lower home prices and rates, new mortgages are… (Seth Perlman, Associated Press)

 

August 06, 2011|By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times
Despite near-record-low mortgage rates and the cheapest housing prices in eight years, home lending has slipped this year to the lowest level since 1997.The laggard loan market can be explained in part by the slow economy, numerous foreclosures and the proliferation of “underwater” loans, those that exceed the value of the properties they secure.

 

But other factors are compounding the problem, including so-called refi burnout — how many times, after all, can one refinance a home? — and a wave of people who have simply decided that homeownership isn’t what it was cracked up to be.

Weary of a noisy tenant on the other side of a common wall, Bruce and Deborah Dennis sold their Arcadia duplex in April, banked a $600,000 profit and went looking for a quieter place to spend their 60s.

Bruce’s boss, a property manager, urged them to buy another home, saying they’d never again see prices and mortgage rates so low at the same time. The couple searched seriously for two months, even bidding on a home. In the end, they opted to rent a house, leery of tying up capital and taking on the headaches of ownership with the housing market so shaky.

“We thought, ‘Is buying really what we want to do?’ I have no confidence that home prices are going back up any time soon,” Bruce Dennis said.

Opt-outs like the Dennises are one reason the mortgage business, which led the way into the Great Recession, is taking so long to come out of it.

Another factor is the slowing of the refinance market. Mortgage costs are near historical lows, with lenders offering 30-year fixed-rate loans at about 4.2% to Californians seeking $400,000 mortgages, online home-loan specialist Lending Tree said Thursday.

But most of the lucky homeowners who still have equity and solid finances have already refinanced once or more and have long since locked in annual rates of less than 5%.

In 2003, as the housing boom took hold and 30-year fixed mortgage rates fell below 6%, refinancings propelled home lending to four times the current volume. And as the rate tumbled toward 5% and then smashed that barrier in 2009 for the first time since 1956, there was twice as much mortgage lending as now.

“There is a burnout phenomenon,” said Mortgage Bankers Assn. economist Michael Fratantoni. In addition, many would-be refinancers have been stopped by the declines in home prices, now back at 2003 levels, which has left them owing far more than their homes are worth.

“Borrowers who couldn’t qualify for 4.5% mortgages last year for the most part still can’t qualify this year,” Fratantoni said.

And getting the purchase market up and running again would require “significant job growth,” he said, something that has failed to materialize in the sluggish recovery that is threatening to fall back into recession.

 

 

The result of all this: Despite the confluence of lower home prices and rates, new mortgages are down by a third compared with 2010. Lenders will write about $1 trillion in home loans this year, the smallest total since 1997, according to the Mortgage Bankers Assn., which projects that home lending will fall even lower in 2012.Some say the combination of falling home prices, tight credit in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the flood of foreclosure sales has undermined the traditional view of homeownership as the engine of financial success.

“The previous assumptions that housing is a good investment, or that home prices can only go up, or that all Americans should be able to buy a home, are being seriously challenged,” Morgan Stanley housing analysts wrote last month in a study titled “A Rentership Society.”

In the middle of the last decade, when the term “ownership society” was coined, the homeownership rate was nearly 70%, the report noted. If delinquent borrowers were excluded, it said, the current rate of 66.4% today would instead be 59.7%.

For those willing to take out mortgages despite all the grim news, the prospects are improving slightly. Lenders have eased certain terms for the first time since the mortgage meltdown took hold, and some on the front lines say banks are abandoning the scrutiny bordering on suspicion with which they had come to regard potential borrowers.

“All those granular issues we were beating people up about over the last three years seem to be going away,” Laguna Niguel mortgage broker Jeff Lazerson said. “The hassles over old credit inquiries. Having to explain every entry on a bank statement.”

Spokesmen for Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp., the largest mortgage companies, said they recently eased standards slightly for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which are attractive to first-time buyers because they require relatively small down payments.

However, among younger buyers, “there’s not much feeling that they need to buy right away,” Fratantoni said. “I expect that may change over the next couple of years, but certainly for the first-time buyer there’s less near-term demand.”

Older people can be ownership-averse as well, like the Dennises, who intend to work five more years before they retire.

“To buy another house, we were going to have to come up with a chunk of change for a down payment,” Bruce Dennis said. “Then there were property taxes, and of course maintenance — that gets expensive in a hurry.

“The glories of homeownership we no longer have to face.”

scott.reckard@latimes.com

Top Housing-Related Gripes From Customers

 

Daily Real Estate News |-Tuesday, August 09, 2011 

Consumers have a lot of gripes when it comes to housing or real estate issues. A survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators revealed the top consumer gripes based on more than 252,000 complaints lodged with regulators in 2010.Here are some of the top gripes that emerged related to housing and real estate:

  • Home improvement/construction:bad construction work, failure to begin or finish a job on time, or problems with rebates, coupons or gift cards.
  • Credit/debt:Mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.
  • Household goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances.
  • Landlord/tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.

The survey also asked what new laws were needed to better protect consumers, with many of the responses relating to credit and debt problems. For example, survey respondents said there needs to be stronger laws to prevent abusive debt collection practices as well as stiff monetary penalties needed for landlords who knowingly rent a property that is–or is about to be–in foreclosure.

View more customer complaints from the survey.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine Daily News
 

Will the S&P Downgrade Affect Interest Rates?

Daily Real Estate News | Monday, August 08, 2011

 

Standard & Poor downgraded the U.S.’s credit rating on Friday, despite Congress reaching a deal in the final hours on the debt ceiling crisis last week. And now many of your customers may be asking: What does this mean for interest rates?“The impact on your wallet of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the nation’s credit rating is similar to what would happen if your own credit score declined: The cost of borrowing money is likely to go up,” the Washington Post explained in the aftermath of S&P’s decision.

S&P downgraded the U.S.’s top-notch AAA credit rating for the first time in history, moving it down one notch to AA+; the rating reflects a downgrade in S&P’s confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to repay its debts over time. It’s not clear, however, whether S&P’s downgrade will instantly effect rates, analysts say.

The 10-year Treasury note is considered the basis for all other interest rates. And “the downgrade could increase the yields on those bonds, forcing the government to spend more to borrow the same amount of money,” the Washington Post article notes. “Many consumer loans, such as mortgages, are linked to the yield on Treasurys and therefore would also rise.”

Watch this video with NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun for more information.

While consumers who have fixed interest rate mortgages will be immune to any changes in borrowing costs, home buyers shopping for a loan or those with mortgages that fluctuate may see a rise in rates later on, some analysts say.

Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, told the Associated Press that he doesn’t expect the downgrade to drive up interest rates instantly since the economy is still weak and borrowers aren’t competing for money and driving rates higher. However, he expects in three to five years, loan demand will be much higher and then the downgraded credit rating might cause rates to rise.

Analysts are still waiting to see if the other rating agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, follows S&P’s lead in its downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. If so, the aftermath could be much worse, analysts say.

The debt deal reached by Congress last week was expected to save the U.S. from any credit rating downgrade. However, S&P said lawmakers fell short in its deal. Congress’ deal called for $2 trillion in U.S. deficit reduction over the next 10 years; S&P had called for $4 trillion.

Source: “5 Ways the Downgrade in the U.S. Credit Rating Affects You,” The Washington Post (Aug. 8, 2011); Questions and Answers on Standard & Poor’s Downgrading of U.S. Federal Debt,” Associated Press (Aug. 6, 2011); and S&P Downgrade Will Shake Consumer and Business Confidence at a Fragile Time, Economists Say,” Associated Press (Aug. 6, 2011)

Read More

Real Estate OK in Debt Deal But Risks Remain

Young Generation Hit Hard by Recession

Daily Real Estate News | Monday, August 08, 2011

 

The recession has hit the younger generation hard and is forcing them to delay many major life changes and purchases, according to a new survey. About 44 percent of Millennials — people aged 18 to 29 — say they will have to delay buying a home due to economic factors, according to a survey conducted by The Polling Co. Inc./WomanTrend.

About 75 percent say they have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors, and 30 percent say the bad economy has prompted them to delay changing jobs or cities. What’s more, nearly 25 percent say they will delay starting a family, and 18 percent say they will delay getting married.

Such delays by the younger generation has started to affect household formation. Many young professionals are moving back in with their parents to curb costs, which has caused household to grow in recent years after facing decades of declines.

“The impact of the poor economy, in human terms, has been devastating. This is especially true for young Americans, whose lives have been interrupted and dreams put on hold due to the lack of economic opportunity,” says Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity.

Source: “Young Americans Waylaid by Recession, Study Shows,” Los Angeles Times (Aug. 5, 2011)

Read more:

What Does Gen Y Want?

Commodity prices

Good news bears

Aug 8th 2011, 13:39 by The Economist online

A fall in commodity prices offers some cheer among the market gloom

THE equity markets may be suffering again as investors worry about sovereign debts and a slowing global economy. But the sell-off has also extended into the commodity market, particularly in oil: West Texas intermediate is trading at around $84 a barrel. This is a bearish story that is good news for western consumers. High raw-materials prices acted as a tax rise in the first half of the year; now they are falling the effect will be akin to a tax cut. There is just one caveat. The working assumption is that the recent sharp fall in the oil prices is caused by concerns about a slowing US economy; if it is really due to a sharp slowdown in emerging markets as well, equity markets will really have cause to worry.

Readers’ comments

The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.

 

Welcome back to Earth !

BRL, you better find a parachute for you…

Deflation, your time has finally come, after 2.5 years of delay

We called it:
http://seekingalpha.com/article/285619-the-debt-downgrade-and-the-summer…

We’re outperforming today as we did all of last week.

I remember in 2008 petroleum peaked in May for their highest price in history. The cause was never explained.

This price exceeded 2004 levels when the Gulf refineries were smashed by a series of Hurricanes notable Katrina and Rita. The prices exceeded the outbreaks of Gulf War 1 and 2 with Iraq and even the 9/11 attacks. The price of oil exceeded Supertankers being attacked by terrorist teams, Iran mining the critical choke point of the Strait of Hormuz where 40% of World travels, Putin’s energy cut offs, or raging piracy off the Somalian coasts.

I want to propose an actor and a plot. Follow the Money. Who has the Wealth and Power and the Means and Motive? The world’s largest exporter of oil is Saudi Arabia.

And in 2008 they saw an opportunity to influence the election of the most powerful office in the world. The Saudis grew tired of Bush and the Republicans. And the Republican Presidential Candidate McCain seem to want to open up a third war front on Iran. The other candidate was named Hussein and may prove to be a tribal brother.

And when your only tool is a hammer, every thing looks like a nail. By reducing oil imports by 5%, the Saudis can affect oil prices world wide instantly and to astonishing effect. The Saudis used their control over oil supply to jigger a shortage, which lead to price spikes 6 months before the election and precipitated the American Great Recession of 2008. John McCain argued their was no recession under Republican leadership and was soundly trounced in the election.

But this Recession snowballed into the Nov 2008 banking crisis, Lehman Bros downfall, the mortgage crisis, AIG insurance crisis, Automaker bankruptcy and the unemployment morass. All because of oil spikes.

An incumbent President’s greatest opponent is the state of the economy in an election year. And the Saudis are again using their hammer this time to LOWER the price of oil to brighten the American economy and re-elect President Obama. We are puppets on a string.

Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequence, the Recession they brought on in 2008 is still around and may be into a double dip. The Saudis are at it again doing their best to suppress the price of oil to promote a recovery.

Surprise, Money is Power! And Economic issues can influence Politics. Strange things happen in election years. Yes, even foreign actors can also pull some stringshmTzic3YT/

Your assertion that the Saudis influenced oil price to rout the Republicans in American presidential election is clever, but simply UNTRUE. The Saudis, or more accurately King Abdullah and the House of Saud, most likely WANTED warmongering hawks in the White House again, so that the US could wipe Iran and its nuclear programmes off the map. Wikileaks showed that King Abdullah, while posturing as an Islamic patriot who wanted the US to moderate its Mideast policies, privately encouraged GWB to attack Iran. This explains the confusion and the disorderliness with which the Saudi diplomatic corps to Washington D.C. have been conducting themselves vis-a-vis the Iranian issue.

And in this day and age, it is unwise to assume that the power to set the price of oil is centralized in Riyadh, Caracas or whatever. Thousands of traders tinker with the price of crude, and other governments can simply flood the market with their strategic oil reserves to drive the price down.

On this blog we publish a new chart or map every working day, highlight our interactive-data features and provide links to interesting sources of data around the we

 

  • AUGUST 5, 2011, 12:07 P.M. ET

 

Buyer’s Remorse? How to Undo Big-Ticket Buys

Market moves have consumers rethinking big-ticket purchases. How to back out without losing your shirt

 

By KELLI B. GRANT
 Uh-oh. Did you keep your receipt?

This week’s unnerving market moves haven’t just shaken everyday investors and portfolio hawks. They also have the potential to unsettle another important group: American consumers.

Analysts worry that the fresh wave of economic uncertainty could prompt consumers to postpone or cancel major purchases, whether a last-minute summer vacation, a car for a college student, or a bargain vacation home. Already made a recent big buy? That’s where buyers’ remorse could start kick in, analysts say, for every point the Dow falls.

For some consumers it already has. Some recent retailer surveys suggest that shoppers have been spending more time at the returns counter since the fourth quarter of 2008, says Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center of Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business. “After the purchase is made, they’re still thinking, ‘Should I have bought that,'” she says.

There are some options for nervous buyers who are still planning a big splurge — while wondering if the market is poised to fall further. Some industries have noticed, and are capitalizing on, the current wave of buyer’s remorse by offering pricey and profitable buyer protection plans. Below, a guide for consumers planning to buy and options for those who’ve already put down their plastic:

Big-ticket retail goods

When it comes to refunds, the big box stores tend to be fairly generous. Wal-Mart and Target, for example, accept returns for up to 90 days. But consumers may face restocking fees of up to 25% on items like electronics and appliances, special orders and boxes already opened, says Edgar Dworsky, found of advocacy site ConsumerWorld. And customized products, like furniture, may not be eligible for cancellation, he says.

Consumers who paid with a credit card might find a little extra leniency. Select cards, including many from American Express and Visa, include so-called return protection, which offers a refund of up to $250 on purchases made within 90 days (and which the retailer won’t take back). Not everything qualifies — the item must be in brand-new, working condition, for example — and issuers typically limit cardholders to $1,000-worth of claims per calendar year.

Another modest recourse: buy-back programs from stores like Best Buy, which offer a guaranteed sell-back rate for gadgets if you purchase the protection when you buy the item. They’re not a great deal in most situations, but might be the only option on a non-returnable product.

Cars

Once you’ve driven a new leased or purchased vehicle off the lot, your choices are limited, says Alec Gutierrez, the manager of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book. Returns are typically permitted only if the car turns out to be a lemon. Barring that, what can you do? One option is to sell or lease the vehicle to someone else, though that may not be the best financial move, says Jesse Toprak, the vice president of industry trends and insights for TrueCar.com: “A lot of times, getting rid of a vehicle in a panic is a worse financial decision than keeping it.” Losses can easily total more than $1,000 once you factor in the car’s already depreciated value, title fees, taxes and any interest on a lease — often enough to offset the likely savings on a cheaper or more fuel-efficient vehicle.

Even would-be buyers having second thoughts aren’t completely off the hook. People on a waiting list or with a vehicle on order may lose some money if they change their minds, says Alec Gutierrez, since dealerships may declare the deposit (which can total as much as $500) nonrefundable. But at least you won’t be responsible for the rest. “Until you sign on the dotted line, take delivery of the vehicle and drive it off the lot, you are not obligated the buy that car,” he says.

Travel

The options for bailing on an upcoming trip vary dramatically, depending your departure date and travel provider, says Ed Perkins, a contributing editor for SmarterTravel.com. Some fare classes of airline tickets are refundable, but most people who buy tickets online end up with the cheapest options, which aren’t. The big U.S. carriers will allow you to use that ticket value toward another flight, plus a change fee of up to $150 on domestic flights, or up to $250 on international flights. (Southwest is the only airline that does not charge a change fee.)

Cruises may offer penalty-free cancellation depending on how far in advance of the departure date you’re cancelling. Princess Cruises, for example, lets you cancel at no charge up to 80 days before. At 79 to 60 days out, it will keep your deposit, and the fees continue to escalate from there. And on some lines, villas and specialty suites would require even greater notice to avoid penalties.

Hotels vary widely, Perkins says. Many allow penalty-free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance of the reservation, though others are non-refundable or keep the first night’s fee as a penalty but refund the rest.

Travel insurance, now pitched by everyone from tour operators to airline booking sites, is the surest bet for refunds — but only if travelers opt for a policy that allows them to cancel for any reason. Of course, this option isn’t cheap: they typically cost 35% to 50% more than a standard policy. And in some cases, the actual refund may be just 75% of the total cost, says Chris Buggy, director of marketing for Travelers Insurance Service.

Monthly commitments

Most states offer a three business-day right to cancel purchases like health clubs and dating services, says consumer advocate Dworsky. Some of these monthly services also offer money-back guarantees or free-trial periods, though experts warn that consumers who miss that trial period — sometime even for a single day — risk getting wrapped into a lengthy contract or membership.

Cancelling your monthly cell phone service could trigger an early termination fee of several hundred dollars; at AT&T, for example, that’s up to $325. But consumers who want to simply scale back cell (or cable) bills can typically downgrade their plans without a penalty.

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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