ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) Prepayments Are Highest Since 2007

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) prepayments hit their highest levels in 12 years during June, according to new data from Black Knight Inc.

The company also noted that prepays on 2018 vintage loans were up by more than 300 percent over the prior four months. As of June 27, Black Knight estimated there were 1.5 million potential refinance candidates in the 2018 vintage alone, matching the total of potential refinance candidates in the 2013-2017 vintages combined.

“Overall, prepayment activity–largely driven by home sales and mortgage refinances–has more than doubled over the past four months,” said Black Knight Data & Analytics President Ben Graboske. “It’s now at the highest levels we’ve seen since the fall of 2016, when rates began their steep upward climb. While we’ve observed increases across nearly every investor type, product type, credit score bucket and vintage, some changes stand out. For instance, prepayments among fixed-rate loans have hewed close to the overall market average, rising by more than two times over the past four months. However, ARM prepayment rates have now jumped to their highest level since 2007 as borrowers have sought to shed the uncertainty of their adjustable-rate products for the security of a low, fixed interest rate over the long haul.”

Graboske added that “some 8.2 million homeowners with mortgages could now both benefit from and likely qualify for a refinance, including more than 35 percent of those who took out their mortgages just last year. Early estimates suggest closed refinances rose by more than 30 percent from April 2019, with May’s volumes estimated to be three times higher than the 10-year low seen in November 2018.”

Black Knight also reported that approximately 44 million homeowners with mortgages have more than 20 percent equity in their home. With a combined $5.98 trillion, that works out to an average of $136,00 per borrower with tappable equity. While this level is near last summer’s all-time high of $6.06 trillion, Black Knight also observed the annual growth rate slowed to three percent in the first quarter, down from five percent in the prior quarter and 16 percent.

Source: by Phil Hall | National Mortgage Professional Magazine

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Jeffrey Epstein’s $56 Million Mansion Could Become a Real-Estate Nightmare

(Jeanette Settembre) Jeffrey Epstein lived in what’s reportedly one of the largest private homes in Manhattan, where he allegedly sexually abused under aged girls, an allegation so horrific, real-estate experts say people will go out of their way to avoid walking down the block.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Epstein’s seven-story, 21,000-square-foot Upper East Side home near Central Park is reportedly valued at $56 million, and if the home ever hits the market again, the stigma from the financier’s alleged sex-trafficking scandal will likely diminish its worth.

“After an event like this occurs, and the public becomes aware of it, all of a sudden the value drops significantly,” real-estate appraiser Orell Anderson, who valued the homes where Nicole Brown Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey were murdered, told MarketWatch.

“When tragedy or crime occurs at a home, it could take years before it ever sells, even if it’s a high profile residence”

One might find what’s inside the mansion disturbing even without knowing the harrowing acts that occurred inside.The home is reportedly adorned with unsettling decor choices, like a female doll hanging from the chandelier, and a self-portrait Epstein reportedly commissioned of himself portrayed in a prison scene behind barbed wire in the middle of a corrections officer and a guard station, according to The New York Times. All of those adornments, of course, would be removed in lieu of any sale.

When tragedy or crime occurs at a home, it could take years before it ever sells, even if it’s a high profile residence. And when it does, the buyer usually gets a discount on it, and the market value could take years to bounce back, if it ever does, Anderson says.

Homes where something as extreme as a murder occurs can often decrease a property’s value by 25% because of physical damages to the house like blood stains, or the lingering smell of dead bodies, Anderson explains. Then there’s the stigma of living in a house where someone was killed, or a tragedy happened.

After O.J. Simpson’s former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her 26-year-old friend Ron Goldman were found dead outside of her Brentwood home in 1994, Brown Simpson’s family tried to sell it, but no one wanted to buy a home where a double homicide occurred.

The house was on the market for two years before it finally sold for a fraction of what Brown Simpson paid for it. She purchased the home for $625,000 and it sold for $525,000, according to realtor.com. And in 1974 when Ronald DeFeo murdered an entire family in the “Amityville Horror House,” it sold for a $250,000 loss in 2017.

“The property in the short-term would take a significant hit to what its potential would be.”

New York City-based real-estate appraiser Jonathan Miller says even cursed homes see resiliency.

“Whenever there is a tragedy, generally speaking, at least in New York, the property in the short-term would take a significant hit to what its potential would be,” Miller explained.

He said Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion is especially unique because there’s only a handful like them on the block near Central Park. “I find that within a few years that generally fades away and even accelerates when you have a unique property or housing shortage.”

How to salvage and attempt to sell a cursed property

Once the dust settles after a tragedy, there are physical changes that can be made to present the property in a new light.

“It’s best to make the house look different from the pictures of it in the media so that people don’t immediately recognize it.” Anderson says, of changing the facade. “Put in more lights or change the color of the walls so there’s a perception that things have changed.”

That could mean investing in landscapers to add more plants to the front entrance to make it look more inviting, or changing the color of the home to make it appear brand new so perspective buyers don’t associate the property with it’s dark history.

However, real-estate agents are typically obliged to reveal the history of a house, especially if there were serious crimes committed there such as a murder, to a prospective buyer.

To boost the value of Simpson Brown’s home, it underwent a massive renovation and an address change so prospective buyers wouldn’t associate the condo with its past. It took more than a decade to bounce back selling for $1.72 million in 2006, according to realtor.com.

In the DeFeo murder home, granite counter tops, a heated sun room, fireplace and home sprinkler system were added likely to help boost the value in 2016 before it sold a year later.

Homes where tragedies occur can be redeveloped, turned into memorials or destroyed

Anderson says another way to restore a property that’s been plagued by crime or violence is to demolish it and rebuild something completely new, like turning a single-family mansion into an apartment building or office space depending on what zoning and land laws permit.

“If you had the kind of money, you could tear down the home and make it into something different,” Anderson said. In other cases, like an act of terrorism or a mass shooting, sometimes homes or the place where a tragedy occurred are destroyed all together, Anderson noted.

Some buyers hire energy healers to chase away evil spirits and bad vibes

When the DeFeo murder home first sold in 1975 after he was convicted, the buyers reportedly moved out nearly a month after they moved in because they allegedly heard voices telling them to “get out.” It could be worth getting an energy healer or spiritual leader to come in and cleanse the house, Anderson says, to put potential home owners at ease.

“If your market demands it, you could get your local priest or energy healer to come exercise the bad spirits. It might sound ridiculous, but that seems to be calming for people who believe in ghosts, or have superstitions,” Anderson says.

Source: By Jeanette Settembre | Realtor.com

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The Jeffrey Epstein Rabbit Hole Goes a Lot Deeper Than You’ve Been Told So Far

It seems like the whole Epstein thing was an elaborate professional blackmail operation intended to ensnare the rich and powerful. But who was really behind it, who was really bankrolling Epstein?

We really need to get to the bottom of this for all the right dominos fall.

Dubai Villa Prices Fall to Lowest Point in a Decade

The average villa is now trading for less than it did following the last global financial crisis

Newly constructed villas in Dubai. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

(Mansion Global) Dubai house prices plummeted to their lowest levels in over a decade last quarter, according to new data from U.A.E.-based property firm Cavendish Maxwell.

The average single-family home price sunk 24% over the past year to AED1.82 million (US$495,500), a level not seen in over 11 years despite a global recession and regional economic meltdowns over the past decade, according to data on website Property Monitor.

The average house, referred to locally as a villa, is now trading for less than it did during the darkest days of the global financial crisis and subsequent credit crunch, which hit Dubai the hardest in 2010-11. It’s also lower than at any point since oil prices crashed in 2015, according Property Monitor, which is powered by Cavendish Maxwell.

In June alone, the average home price—including both single-family houses and apartments—fell over 15% compared to a year ago, according to a report from Cavendish Maxwell on Thursday.

While the Dubai economy remains relatively robust, powered by nearly 8 million foreign expats who live and work in the city, nonstop building has created a glut of housing that’s prevented home values from appreciating in more than a decade.

Sprawling master-planned communities dotted with mansions have been hit the hardest.

“The annual decline in house prices was more pronounced in communities such as IMPZ, Arabian Ranches, Emirates Living, Discovery Garden and Dubai Silicon Oasis, where house prices declined by more than 16% on average,” said the firm in its report.

In the exclusive man-made island known as Palm Jumeirah, prices have slipped 14% over the past year. Even thriving Dubai Marina, which overlooks a port of luxury yachts, has seen average home prices slip 13.5% since June 2018, according to the report.

Source: by Beckie Strum | Mansion Global

Chief Investment Officer of Largest US Public Pension Fund Has Deep Ties to Chinese Regime

(Nathan Su) Newly discovered deep ties between the chief investment officer (CIO) of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the Chinese government, along with CalPERS’s China investment holdings, have provoked controversy about the operations of the largest public retirement fund in the United States.

CalPERS manages more than $350 billion for public employees either retired from or currently working for most of the state and local public agencies in California.

The fund holds tens of millions of shares in equities of Chinese companies. Among other things, these companies develop advanced weapons for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and, according to one expert, are involved in unethical business practices and human rights abuses, including the concentration camps holding Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

According to a 2017 report by People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), CalPERS’s current CIO, Yu “Ben” Meng, as of 2015 was a participant in the Chinese government’s prestigious headhunting program called the Thousand Talents Plan (TTP).

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The World Acquires More Gold While China Is Dumping Treasuries

We are told China’s economy is hurting, the “trade wars” are working and bringing China to it’s knees. From where I sit nothing could be further from the truth.

Currently China holds well north of $1 TRILLION in U.S. Treasuries – debt – that you and I, the tax payers of this country, send interest payments to month after month for them to continue holding our debt. It’s like the mortgage on your house, student loan or car note you have but instead of you getting anything for the debt payment you get to know the warmongers are going to purchase more bombs, weapons of all kinds and create more destruction. China, on the other hand, takes the payment and is building out the Belt and Road Initiative around the world. So, while we are working like slaves to pay our taxes, China is using our labor (taxes) paid to them to build a better global economic and financial system that does not include you and I. Pretty cool, aye?

While this is happening on one side of China’s national ledger sheet, on the other side something completely different is happening.

China reentered the gold market seven months ago, in December 2018 and has added a little less than 74 tons to their official gold holdings of approximately 1,935+ tons of gold. Please keep in mind this does not count the known 80-100 tons per annum that is flowing in from Russia. While this is not a large volume of gold in the grand scheme, this has been going on since 2016 so we are now talking about upwards of 240 – 300 additional tons. This changes their “official” gold holdings from approximately 1,935 tons to somewhere north of 2,175+. It could be as high as 2,235 or more tons of gold.

With more and more central banks continuing to add to their gold hoards did China see the pipeline tightening? China made their exit from the market in October 2016, the same month the yuan / renminbi was added to the IMF basket of currencies accounting for the SDR global trade note. Then fourteen months later decided to jump back in and have been adding to their horde ever since.

Last year, central banks bought 651.5 tons, 74% up on the previous year, the World Gold Council said in January. Official sector purchases could reach 700 tons this year, assuming the China trend continues and Russia at least matches 2018 volumes of about 275 tons, Citigroup Inc. said in April. Buying from central banks in the first five months of this year is 73% higher than a year earlier, with Turkey and Kazakhstan joining China and Russia as the four biggest buyers, according to data released on Monday by the WGC. Source

If 2018 saw national / central banks acquiring more than they have since 1968 and this they are outpacing last year by 73% will this be the biggest year for gold national / central bank acquisitions in history? If not history it would have to be much earlier than 1968 since that record has already been breached.

With the global economic changes that are occurring we have been calling for some type of gold trade settlement for a number of years. We believe that Russia and China are on the cusp on making this change. We have no proof this going to happen this year or next, but all the signs are pointing in that direction. We believe, especially if China continues acquiring more “official” gold on the open market, there will be a gold trade settlement note announced before 2025. Possibly much sooner if the warmongers in Washington DC continue with the war drums over Iran. If President Trump listens to the war-pigs in the Pentagon this will not fare well for the U.S. economy and gold will be much in demand at all levels – from retail to government and everything in between.

Source: Authored by Rory Hall via The Daily Coin, | ZeroHedge

Wall Street Banks Are Starting To Give Up On Lending To Farmers

After years of farm income falling and the U.S./China trade war now taking its toll on the sector, Wall Street banks look as though they are giving up on lending to farmers, according to Reuters

Meanwhile, total U.S. farm debt is slated to rise to $427 billion this year, up from an inflation adjusted $317 billion just 10 years ago. The debt is reaching levels not seen since the 1980’s farm crisis. 

Agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks was lower by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019. This is a 17.5% fall.

An analysis performed by Reuters identified the banks by their quarterly filings of loan performance with the FDIC and grouped banks that were owned by the same holding company.

The slide in farm lending is happening as cash flow worries surface for farmers. We’ve highlighted numerous instances of farmers under pressure due to the U.S./China trade war and poor conditions, like this report from early June and this report on farmer bankruptcies from May.

Sales of products like soybeans have fallen significantly since China and Mexico imposed tariffs in retaliation to U.S. duties on their goods. The trade war losses exacerbated an already strained sector, under pressure from “years over global oversupply and low commodity prices.”

Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings for small farmers were up from 361 filings in 2014 to 498 in 2018. 

Minneapolis-St. Paul area bankruptcy attorney Barbara May said: 

“My phone is ringing constantly. It’s all farmers. Their banks are calling in the loans and cutting them off.”

At the same time, surveys are showing that demand for farm credit is growing. The demand is most pronounced among Midwest grain and soybean producers. Having fewer options to borrow could threaten the survival of many farms, especially when incomes have been cut in half since 2013. 

Gordon Giese, a 66-year-old dairy and corn farmer in Mayville, Wisconsin, was forced to sell most of his cows, his farmhouse and about one-third of his land last year to pay off his debt obligations. 

He said: 

“If you have any signs of trouble, the banks don’t want to work with you. I don’t want to get out of farming, but we might be forced to.”

Michelle Bowman, a governor at the U.S. Federal Reserve called the decline in farm incomes a “troubling echos of the 1980’s farm crisis”. 

Between the end of 2015 and March 31 of this year, JP Morgan pared back its farm loan holdings by 22%, or $245 million. Capital One’s farm-loan holdings at FDIC-insured units fell 33% between the end of 2015 and March 2019. U.S. Bancorp’s fell by 25%. Agricultural loans at BB&T Corp have fallen 29% since summer of 2016. PNC Financial Services Group Inc has cut its farm loans by 12% since 2015.

The four-quarter growth rate for farm loans at all FDIC-insured banks slowed from 6.4% in December 2015 to 3.9% in March 2019. But many smaller, regional banks depend on farms as the main key to their loan books. 

In March, FDIC insured banks reported 1.53% of farm loans were 90 days past due, up from 0.74% at the end of 2015. 

Curt Everson, president of the South Dakota Bankers Association said: “All you have are farmers and companies that work with, sell to or buy from farmers.” 

Source: ZeroHedge

‘They Waited For Failure’: Report Exposes PG&E’s Inability To Replace Equipment That Sparked Deadly Wildfire

The now-bankrupt PG&E has put together a contingency plan that would plunge millions of unsuspecting Californians into rolling blackouts reminiscent of the early 2000s (when the utility was last pushed into bankruptcy protection thanks to the market-manipulation hijinx of Enron and other electricity brokers), but as WSJ revealed in an explosive report published Wednesday – a report that was probably the result of months of battles between the paper’s lawyers and California’s Freedom of Information Commission – PG&E’s long history of deterring maintenance on its lines and towers, a practice that directly contributed to causing the deadliest forest fire in California history.

The utility knew for years that hundreds of miles of high-voltage lines running in high-risk fire areas were at risk of failing and sparking a fire. And instead of acting swiftly to make the necessary upgrades, it appears the company routinely failed to identify the infrastructure most in need of maintenance.

Last year, a 100-year old line failed and sparked the Camp Fire, which eventually caused the deaths of 85 people.Documents obtained by WSJ – mostly internal emails and reports – revealed that the utility knew that 49 of the steel towers that carry the electrical line that failed needed to be replaced entirely.

For years, PG&E, which operates one of the oldest long-distance electricity transmission systems in the world, much of it having been built in the early 1900s, was able to get away with neglecting its lines and towers. But that changed in 2013, when California entered a punishing and prolonged drought.

It dried out much of the state, exponentially amplifying the risk of wildfires. In a 2017 internal presentation, PG&E said it needed a plan to replace towers and better manage lines to prevent “structure failure resulting [in] conductor on ground causing fire.” But inscrutably, the company opted instead to focus its efforts (and billions in capital) on upgrading substations, and instead labeled many of its transmission lines as low-risk projects.

Now, let’s look at the Caribou-Palermo line, the line that failed and caused the Camp Fire. PG&E delayed work on that line for more than five years, despite acknowledging that it, and dozens of aluminum lines and towers, needed urgent work “due to age.”

Similarly, PG&E’s regulators did nothing to change the company’s plans because no regulator keeps a close eye on these projects. PG&E told federal regulators it planned to overhaul the Caribou-Palermo line in 2013, yet no improvements had been made when a piece of hardware holding a high-voltage line failed last November, sending sparks into nearby dry grass and sparking the fire.

What’s worse, the company appears poised to make these same mistakes again as wildfire season progresses. PG&E has delayed maintenance work on several lines in Northern California’s highest-threat fire areas, including at least one near the Plumas National Forest, according to documents obtained by WSJ.

The company hasn’t detailed the scope of the work needed for each line, but it has disclosed that some require upgrades similar to those needed on the Caribou-Palermo line. Across northern California, WSJ able to identify dozens of lines in high-risk fire areas that were as old or older than Caribou-Palermo, and need similar types of maintenance.

One researcher at the University of Pittsburgh offered a damning assessment of their business model: “We have known for a long time that we are dealing with aging and antiquated infrastructure,” he said. “In a lot of cases, the business model was to wait for a failure and then respond.”

Unfortunately, forcing the company to make these repairs can be difficult without intense public scrutiny, given that none of the agency’s regulators has authority over the utility’s projects and maintenance work.

Whether this WSJ report spurs the state to act remains to be seen.

Source: ZeroHedge