Category Archives: Mortgage

USA Today Investigates Reverse Mortgage Foreclosures, Evictions

A recent in-depth investigation on foreclosure actions related to reverse mortgages published late Tuesday by USA Today paints a bleak picture surrounding the activities and practices of the reverse mortgage industry, but also relates some questionable and out-of-date information in key areas highlighted by the investigation, according to industry participants who spoke with RMD.

The investigative piece was the first in a new series of articles released by the outlet, touching on subjects including “questions to ask before getting a reverse mortgage,” ways to “fix” the reverse mortgage program, and details on how reverse mortgages work.

Referring to a wave of reverse mortgage foreclosures that predominantly affected urban African-American neighborhoods as a “stealth aftershock of the Great Recession,” the investigative article focuses on nearly 100,000 foreclosed reverse mortgages as having “failed,” and affecting the financial futures of the borrowers, negatively impacting the property values in the neighborhoods that surround the foreclosed properties.

In a related article, the publication details the various sources from which it drew information and the methodologies used to reach their conclusions, including some of the challenges involved in such an analysis.

The article authors detailed the ways in which they went about their information gathering, which included inquiries of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, some of the interpretations based on that data are largely out of date, according to sources who spoke with RMD about the coverage.

Non-borrowing spouses

A major component of the USA Today investigation revolved around a non-borrowing spouse who was taken off of the liened property’s title in order to allow for the couple’s access to a higher level of proceeds in 2010. When the borrowing husband passed away in 2016, the lender instituted a foreclosure action that has resulted in the non-borrowing wife having to vacate the property.

“Even when both husband and wife are old enough to qualify, reverse mortgage lenders often advise them to remove the younger spouse from loans and titles,” the article reads. The article does not address protections implemented in 2015 to address non-borrowing spouse issues.

In 2015, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released a series of guidelines that were designed to strengthen protection for non-borrowing spouses in reverse mortgage transactions. In the revised guidelines, lenders were allowed to defer foreclosure for certain eligible non-borrowing spouses for HECM case numbers assigned before or after August 4, 2014.

Lenders are also allowed to proceed with submitting claims on HECMs with eligible surviving non-borrowing spouses by assigning the affected HECM to HUD upon the death of the last surviving borrower, where the HECM would not otherwise be assignable to FHA as part of a Mortgagee Optional Election Assignment (MOE).

A lender may also proceed by allowing claim payment following the sale of the property by heirs or the borrower’s estate, or by foreclosing in accordance with the terms of the mortgage and filing an insurance claim under the FHA insurance contract as endorsed.

Foreclosure vs. eviction

“A foreclosure is a failure, no matter the trigger,” said one of the article’s sources.

Multiple sources who wished to remain unnamed told RMD that positioning a foreclosure as a “failure” of the reverse mortgage is itself misleading particularly when taking a borrower’s specific circumstances into account, and that the article appears to, at times, conflate the terms “foreclosure” and “eviction.” One of the USA Today article’s own sources also added a perspective on a perceived incongruity between the use of the terms.

“There is a difference between foreclosure and eviction that isn’t really explained in the article,” said Dr. Stephanie Moulton, associate professor of public policy at Ohio State University in an email to RMD. “We would need to know the proportion of foreclosed loans that ended because of death of the borrower, versus other reasons for being called due and payable (including tax and insurance default).”

HECM evolution since the Great Recession

One of the factual issues underlying some of the ideas of the article is that it presents older problems of the HECM program in a modern context, without addressing many of the most relevant changes that have been made to the program in the years since many of the profiled loans were originated, particularly during a volatile period for the American housing market: the Great Recession.

This was observed by both industry participants, as well as Moulton.

“The other thing to keep in mind about this particular time period is the collapse of home values underlying HECMs that exacerbated crossover risk—which would increase the rate of both types of foreclosures,” Moulton said. “And, this was prior to many of the changes that have been made to protect borrowers and shore up the program, including limits on upfront draws, second appraisal rules, and financial assessment of borrowers.”

This includes the aforementioned protections instituted for non-borrowing spouses, in addition to changes including the addition of a financial assessment (FA) regulation designed to reduce persistent defaults, especially those related to tax-and-insurance defaults that regularly afflicted the HECM program in years prior to its implementation. These newer protections received only cursory mention in the USA Today article.

Industry response

The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) is preparing an industry response to the ideas and conclusions presented by USA Today, according to a statement made to RMD.

“A reverse mortgage is one potential and essential component for many Americans seeking to fund retirement,” said Steve Irwin, executive vice president of NRMLA in a call with RMD. “NRMLA and its members are committed to working with all stakeholders to continually improve the HECM program. NRMLA is developing a response to the piece.”

Read the full investigative article at USA Today.

Source: Reverse Mortgage Daily

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Negative Interest Rates Spread To Mortgage Bonds

(John Rubino) There are trillions of dollars of bonds in the world with negative yields – a fact with which future historians will find baffling.

Copenhagen Mint Images/Getty Images

Until now those negative yields have been limited to the safest types of bonds issued by governments and major corporations. But this week a new category of negative-yielding paper joined the party: mortgage-backed bonds.

Bankers Stunned as Negative Rates Sweep Across Danish Mortgages

(Investing.com) – At the biggest mortgage bank in the world’s largest covered-bond market, a banker took a few steps away from his desk this week to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him.

As mortgage-bond refinancing auctions came to a close in Denmark, it was clear that homeowners in the country were about to get negative interest rates on their loans for all maturities through to five years, representing multiple all-time lows for borrowing costs.

“During this week’s auctions, there were three times when I had to stand back a little from the screen and raise my eyebrows somewhat,” said Jeppe Borre, who analyzes the mortgage-bond market from a unit of the Nykredit group that dominates Denmark’s $450 billion home-loan industry.

For one-year adjustable-rate mortgage bonds, Nykredit’s refinancing auctions resulted in a negative rate of 0.23%. The three-year rate was minus 0.28%, while the five-year rate was minus 0.04%.

The record-low mortgage rates, which don’t take into account the fees that homeowners pay their banks, are the latest reflection of the global shift in the monetary environment as central banks delay plans to remove stimulus amid concerns about economic growth.

Denmark has had negative rates longer than any other country. The central bank in Copenhagen first pushed its main rate below zero in the middle of 2012, in an effort to defend the krone’s peg to the euro. The ultra-low rate environment has dragged down the entire Danish yield curve, with households in the country paying as little as 1% to borrow for 30 years. That’s considerably less than the U.S. government.

The spread of negative yields to mortgage-backed bonds is both inevitable and ominous. Inevitable because the current amount of negative-yielding debt has not ignited the kind of rip-roaring boom that overindebted countries think they need, which, since interest rates are just about their only remaining stimulus tool, requires them to find other kinds of debt to push into negative territory. Ominous because, as the world discovered in the 2000s, mortgages are a cyclical instrument, doing well in good times and defaulting spectacularly in bad. Giving bonds based on this kind of paper a negative yield appears to guarantee massive losses in the next housing bust.

Meanwhile, this is year ten of an expansion – which means the next recession is coming fairly soon. During recessions, the US Fed, for instance, tends to cut short-term rates by about 5 percentage points to counter the slowdown in growth.

With Europe and much of the rest of the world already awash in negative-yielding debt

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/bfm5377_1.jpg?itok=wZzY0aC5

… this imminent slide in interest rates will turn the rest of the global financial system Danish, giving us bank accounts and bond funds that charge rather than pay, and very possibly mortgages that pay rather than charge.

Anyone who claims to know how this turns out is delusional.

Source: ZeroHedge

The Evolution Of Mortgage Policy, 1970-1999

“A Crack in The Foundation?” Part 2: Three Decades of Red Flags — Mortgage Policy & Praxis, 1970-1999

Welcome to “A Crack in the Foundation?”, a four-part series in which Maxwell Digital Mortgage Solutions will examine the evolution of the mortgage industry and homeownership in America, with an eye on government policies and how GSEs can promote (or prohibit) periods of economic growth.

Part 2 begins at the start of the 1970s and follows the uneasy path of government policy and economic turmoil as we creep towards the end of the century. (Missed Part 1? Read it here).  This section will follow the astronomical growth in the secondary market, the mounting government pressure put on Fannie and Freddie to increase their offerings to lower- and moderate-income borrowers, as well as a widespread shift towards deregulation in the market that (spoiler alert) will prove to have disastrous consequences as the new millennium begins.

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The Evolution Of Mortgage Policy, 1930-1960

“A Crack in The Foundation?” Part 1: Fannie & Friends — The Evolution of Mortgage Policy from 1930-1960

Welcome to “A Crack in the Foundation?”, a four-part series in which Maxwell Digital Mortgage Solutions will examine the evolution of the mortgage industry and homeownership in America, with an eye on government policies and how GSEs can promote (or prohibit) periods of economic growth.

Part I starts at the turn of the 20th century and traces the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as well as the birth of Fannie and Ginnie, to look at the inception of the modern mortgage and its impact on home ownership.

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Interest-Only Issuance Has Skyrocketed, But Is lt Time To Worry Yet?

A larger volume of CMBS loans are being issued with interest-only (IO) structures, but this rise may put the CMBS market in a dicey position when the economy reaches its next downturn. To put things in perspective, interest-only loan issuance reached $19.5 billion in Q3 2018, six times greater than fully amortizing loan issuance. In comparison, nearly 80% of all CMBS issued in the FY 2006 and FY 2007 was either interest-only or partially interest-only loans.

In theory, the popularity of interest-only loans makes sense, because they provide lower debt service payments and free up cash flow for borrowers. But these benefits are partially offset by some additional risks in the interest-only structure, with the borrower’s inability to deleverage during the loan’s life perhaps being the biggest concern. Additionally, borrowers who opt for a partial interest-only structure incur a built-in “payment shock” when the payments switch from interest-only to principal and interest.

Why are we seeing a spike in interest-only issuance if the loans are inherently riskier than fully amortizing loans? Commercial real estate values are at all-time highs; interest rates are still historically low; expectations for future economic and rent growth are fundamentally sound, and competition for loans on stabilized, income-producing properties is higher than ever. Furthermore, the refinancing pipeline is miniscule compared to the 2015-2017Wall of Maturities, so more capital is chasing fewer deals. This causes lenders to augment loan proceeds and loosen underwriting parameters, including offering more interest-only deals.

Then and Now: Why the Rise in 10 Debt Has Raised Concerns

Between Q1 2010 and Q1 2012, fully amortizing loans dominated new issuance, with its market share amass­ing as much as 80.4% (Q1 2012). Interest-only issuance was nearly equal to the fully amortizing tally by Q3 2012, as interest-only debt totaled $5.10 billion, only $510 million less than fully amortized loans. Interest-only issuance would soon overtake fully amortizing loan issuance by Q2 2017, as its volume skyrocketed from $5.3 billion in Q1 2017 to $19.5 billion in Q3 2018.

Prior to the 2008 recession, the CMBS market experienced a similar upward trend in interest-only issuance. By 02 2006, interest-only loans represented 57.6% of new issuance, out­pacing fully amortizing notes by 38.86%. The difference in issuance between interest-only and fully amortizing loans continued to widen as the market approached the recession, eventually reaching a point where interest-only debt repre­sented 78.8% of new issuance in 01 2007. Even though the prevalence of interest-only debt is mounting, why would this be a concern in today’s market?

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IO Loans Are More Likely to Become Delinquent

Interest-only loans have historically been more suscep­tible to delinquency when the economy falters. Immedi­ately following the recession, delinquency rates across all CMBS loans moved upward. Once the economy began to show signs of recovery, the delinquency rate for fully am­ortized loans began to decline, while interest-only and par­tially interest-only delinquencies continued to rise. In July 2012, the delinquency rate for fully amortizing loans was sitting at 5.07% while the interest-only reading reached 14.15%. The outsized delinquency rate for interest-only loans during this time period is not surprising, since many of the five-year and seven-year loans originated in the years prior to the recession were maturing. Many of the borrowers were unable to meet their payments due to significant declines in property prices paired with loan bal­ances that had never amortized.

Over time, the stabilization of the CMBS market led to subsequent declines in the delinquency rates for both the interest-only and partial interest-only sectors. The delin­quency rate for interest-only loans clocked in at 3.17% in December 2018, which is down nearly 11 % from its peak. Delinquency rates across all amortization types have failed to return to pre-crisis levels.

Just because a large chunk of interest-only debt became delinquent during the previous recession does not mean the same is destined to happen in the next downturn.

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Measuring the likelihood of a loan turning delinquent is typically done by calculating its debt-service coverage ra­tio (DSCR). Between 2010 and 2015, the average DSCR across all interest-only loans was a relatively high 1.94x. Since 2016, the average DSCR for interest-only debt has fallen slightly. If the average DSCR for interest-only loans continues to decline, the inherent risk those loans pose to the CMBS market will become more concerning.

The average DSCR for newly issued interest-only loans in March 2019 registered at 1.61 x, which is about 0.35x higher than the minimum DSCR recommended by the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council (CREFC). In 2015, CREFC released a study analyzing the impact of prudential and securities regulation across the CRE finance sector. In the study, CREFC cited a 1.25x-DSCR as the cutoff point between relatively healthy and unhealthy loans. The value was chosen through loan-level analysis and anecdotal information from conversations with members.

The figure below maps the DSCR for both fully amortizing and interest-only loans issued between 2004 and 2008. Notice that toward the end of 2006, the average DSCR hugged the 1.25x cutoff level recommended by CREFC. Beyond 2006, the average DSCR for interest-only loans oscillated between healthy and concerning levels.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/trepp3_0.jpg?itok=xgvNXKFE

The second figure focuses on CMBS 2.0 loans, where a sim­ilar trend can be spotted. After roughly converting interes-t­only loan DSCRs to amortizing DSCRs using underwritten NOI levels and assuming 30-year amortization, the average DSCR for interest-only loans issued between 2010 and mid- 2014 (2.04x) is much greater than that for fully amortizing issuance (1.78x). While part of this trend can be attributed to looser underwriting standards and/or growing competition, the other driver of the trend is due to selection bias. Lend­ers will typically give interest-only loans to stronger proper­ties and require amortization from weaker properties, so it makes sense that they would also require less P&I cover­age for those interest-only loans on lower-risk properties.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/trepp4_0.jpg?itok=1F8l-CcE

What Lies Ahead for the IO Sector?

Rising interest-only loan issuance paired with a drop in av­erage DSCR may spell for a messy future for the CMBS industry if the US economy encounters another reces­sion. At this point, CMBS market participants can breath a little easier since interest-only performance has remained above the market standard. However, this trend is worth monitoring as the larger volume could portend a loosening in underwriting standards.

Source: by Trepp | ZeroHedge

Average US Credit Score Hits An All Time High

Something unexpected happened after the financial crisis: Americans have become far more responsible when it comes to their finances. At least that is the conclusion one would derive by looking at the average US credit score, which has increased by nearly 20 points, from 686 in 2009 to 704 in 2018.

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Additionally, according to Moody’s, there are around 15 million more consumers with credit scores above 740 today than there were in 2006, and about 15 million fewer consumers with scores below 660.

As we discussed recently, on the surface, this “disappearance” of subprime borrowers is good news. But is there more than meets the eye to the American consumer’s FICO score renaissance? And, separately, are FICO scores subject to “grade inflation“, as the Federal Reserve recently claimed?

To answer these questions, Goldman recently conducted an analysis into the causes behind this welcome development in US credit scores. The bank founds that, as expected, some of this increase reflects legitimate improvements in the credit behavior of US consumers. For example, household debt has declined as a percentage of GDP:

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Since measures of indebtedness / over-extension represent roughly 30% of the FICO credit score calculation, this de-leveraging will, appropriately, lead to higher credit scores.

Some of the increase in average FICO scores is also a reflection of the relatively benign macro-economy to which consumers have been exposed in recent years, according to Goldman. Past payment history is the largest driver of most credit score formulas, and low current delinquency rates help drive credit scores higher even if these low rates of delinquency are partly explained by the strong economy.

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With these two considerations in mind, Goldman cautions that in light of the strong economy and lack of a (recent) stressful economic scenario, with unemployment rates now below 4%, high credit scores for 2019 vintage borrowers might overstate credit quality.

Echoing this point, Cris deRitis, Moody’s deputy chief economist said that “borrowers with low credit scores in 2019 pose a much higher relative risk. Because loss rates today are low and competition for high-score borrowers is fierce, lenders may be tempted to lower their credit standards without appreciating that the 660 credit-score borrower today may be relatively worse than a 660-score borrower in 2009.”

“Borrowers’ scores may have migrated up, but inherently their individual risk, and their attitude towards credit and ability to pay their bills, has stayed the same. You might have thought 700 was a good score, but now it’s just average,” deRitis continued.

Indeed, despite the record high average FICO score, cracks are already starting to show on the surface: there has been a rising number of missed payments by borrowers with the highest risk, despite the past decade of “growth”. And now that the economy is starting to show weakness, these delinquencies could accelerate and lead to larger than expected losses.

Ethan Dornhelm, vice president of scores and predictive analytics at FICO doesn’t seem to notice score inflation and blames the issue on underwriters: “The relationship between FICO score and delinquency levels can and does shift over time. We recognize there’s a lot more context you can obtain beyond a consumer’s credit file. We do not think that score inflation is the issue, but the risk layering on underwriting factors outside of credit scores, such as DTI, loan terms, and even trends in macroeconomic cycles, for example.”

Marketplace and peer to peer lending has also been showing signs of stress. Missed payments and writedowns increased last year, according to NY data and analytic firm PeerIQ. “We don’t see the purported improvement in underwriting just yet,” PeerIQ wrote in a recent report.

And the pressure isn’t just showing up in auto loans and marketplace lending. Private label credit cards, those issued by stores, instead of big banks, saw the highest number of missed payments in seven years last year. “As an investor it’s incumbent on you to do that deep credit work, which means you have to know as much as possible about how things should pay off or default”, said Michelle Russell-Dowe, who invests in consumer asset-backed securities at Schroder Investment Management. “If you don’t think you’re being paid for the risk, you have no business investing in it.”

Of course, with FICO scores rising to new all time highs, it is only logical to expect that virtually no underwriter will actually bother to understand the underlying credit risk(s), which is also why consumers will likely be saddled with even more debt just as the broader economy is set to turn. The only question is whether such inflation FICO scores will be the catalyst behind the next debt-driven meltdown.

Source: ZeroHedge

Will “Inflated” FICO Scores Be The Catalyst For The Next Meltdown

Consumer credit scores have been artificially inflated during the past decade and are covering up a very real danger lurking behind hundreds of billions of dollars in debt. And when Goldman Sachs is the one ringing the alarm bell, you know the issue may actually be serious.

Joined by Moody’s Analytics and supported by “research” from the Federal Reserve, the steady rise of credit scores during our last decade of “economic expansion” has led to a dangerous concept called “grade inflation”, according to Bloomberg

Grade inflation is the idea that debtors are actually riskier than their scores indicate, due to metrics not accounting for the “robust” economy, which may negatively affect the perception of borrowers’ ability to pay back bills on time. This means that when a recession finally happens, there could be a larger than expected fallout for both lenders and investors. 

There are around 15 million more consumers with credit scores above 740 today than there were in 2006, and about 15 million fewer consumers with scores below 660, according to Moody’s.

On the surface, this disappearance of subprime borrowers is good news. But is there more than meets the eye to the American consumer’s FICO score renaissance?

Cris deRitis, deputy chief economist at Moody’s Analytics said: “Borrowers with low credit scores in 2019 pose a much higher relative risk. Because loss rates today are low and competition for high-score borrowers is fierce, lenders may be tempted to lower their credit standards without appreciating that the 660 credit-score borrower today may be relatively worse than a 660-score borrower in 2009.”

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The problem is most acute for smaller firms that tend to lend more to people with poor credit histories. Many of these firms rely on FICO scores and are unable to account for other metrics, like debt-to-income levels and macroeconomic data. Among the most exposed outstanding debts are car loans, consumer retail credit and personal loans that are doled out online. These types of debt total about $400 billion – and about $100 billion of that sum has been bundled into securities that have been sold to ravenous yield chasers “investors”. 

Meanwhile, cracks are already starting to show on the surface: there has been a rising number of missed payments by borrowers with the highest risk, despite the past decade of “growth”. And now that the economy is starting to show weakness, these delinquencies could accelerate and lead to larger than expected losses. 

Goldman Sachs analyst Marty Young said in an interview: “Every credit model that just relies on credit score now – and there’s a lot of them – is possibly understating the risk. There are a whole bunch of other variables, including the business cycle, that need to be taken into account.”

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FICO credit scores are used by more than 90% of U.S. lenders to determine whether a borrower is an acceptable risk. Most scores range from 300 to 850, with a higher score purporting to show that someone is more likely to pay back their debts. Some big banks and lenders have recognized the problem and have included other factors in their underwriting decisions. 

“Borrowers’ scores may have migrated up, but inherently their individual risk, and their attitude towards credit and ability to pay their bills, has stayed the same. You might have thought 700 was a good score, but now it’s just average,” deRitis continued.

Ethan Dornhelm, vice president of scores and predictive analytics at FICO magically doesn’t seem to notice score inflation and blames the issue on underwriters: “The relationship between FICO score and delinquency levels can and does shift over time. We recognize there’s a lot more context you can obtain beyond a consumer’s credit file. We do not think that score inflation is the issue, but the risk layering on underwriting factors outside of credit scores, such as DTI, loan terms, and even trends in macroeconomic cycles, for example.”

Goldman’s Young attributes the rise in missed auto loan payments to the change in scores. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said the number of auto loans at least 90 days late topped 7 million at the end of last year.

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Michelle Russell-Dowe, who invests in consumer asset-backed securities at Schroder Investment Management, said: “Some deep-subprime auto lenders may be deeply reliant on credit scores, although there’s a pretty wide range within the auto industry of how lenders use scores and other metrics. For marketplace lending, regardless of the statistics you collect on borrowers, there is something adversely selective about somebody looking for loans online.”

Marketplace and peer to peer lending has also been showing signs of stress. Missed payments and writedowns increased last year, according to NY data and analytic firm PeerIQ. “We don’t see the purported improvement in underwriting just yet,” PeerIQ wrote in a recent report.

And the pressure isn’t just showing up in auto loans and marketplace lending. Private label credit cards, those issued by stores, instead of big banks, saw the highest number of missed payments in seven years last year.

“As an investor it’s incumbent on you to do that deep credit work, which means you have to know as much as possible about how things should pay off or default. If you don’t think you’re being paid for the risk, you have no business investing in it,” Russell-Dowe concluded, stating what should be – but isn’t – the obvious.

Source: ZeroHedge