Lower conforming loan limits back to 2007 levels? Who’s bright idea was that?
Another cluster **** from a government reeling from one uninformed decision to the next. It seems every time you turn around someone from the administration is bemoaning the state of housing in the country today. Housing has pulled us out of 6 of the last 8 recessions – why not this one?
Why? Because Washington says one thing and does the complete opposite. Or one branch does one thing while another branch acts to negate the first (see: PACE Program). Is it any wonder confidence is at record lows? If you people are going to screw up, at least do it consistently so we can move forward with confidence that you’ll continue to screw up the same way – we can deal with that. It’s the multiple levels of screw-ups and misdirection that has us lost.
For those of you that live in the middle of the country, I know it makes no difference. It’s not your fight. But at least get out of the way for those of us that do have a dog in the fight, OK?
Here’s a primer – prior to 2007 GSE loan limits were low. Even though we were in higher cost California, for our county it was about $355,000. Some very high cost areas got 115% of the median price of the market up to $417,000 and some areas as high as $525,000. Problem was, in 2005 – 2007 the median price for a home in our state was approaching $600,000. In our little backwater, medians were in the low $500,000’s for 2 years. That meant that anybody coming to our area COULD NOT GET a conforming loan for even a median price home. They were increasingly pushed into the jumbo market with higher fees, tighter qualifying and higher interest rates. Use of FHA and GSE backed mortgages plummeted from as high as 55% to around 7% by mid-2007.
But where there’s a problem, there’s also an opportunity so lenders came up with ways to address people’s inability to get conforming loans by inventing a whole new category of loans – the exotics. And it worked so well, they kept inventing new features. Can’t qualify for an Alt A or subprime, how about if we ask for ‘0’ down? No? How about interest only for 3 years? Still don’t qualify? How about if we just tell you how much you need to make in order to qualify and then you tell us you make that much? Better?
And the GSE’s saw their market share falling even more and the geniuses on Capitol Hill saw that that was bad so just as things started to implode they made a corrective move to increase conforming loan limits. Had they done that 3 or 4 years earlier while maintaining the relative quality of the loan qualification process, we would not be in the trouble we are today.
Now many of the same geniuses who got us into the problem are charged with getting us back out. And they look at the higher loan limits and see that very few people are using that higher limit today. Duh. So their conclusion is not that they tanked the market, but that the higher limits must no longer be needed. And many Republicans are against the higher loan limits because they see this as a way to ‘reduce governments stake in housing’. Great time to be worried about this, ya schmendrakes. Why not just drive that stake right into the heart of the market while you’re fiddly-farting around trying to make us believe you actually have principles.
YOU DULLARDS! First of all, you are absolutely killing any nascent move-up market that may be starting to percolate. In my area we’re down from $500,000 to $355,000 as a conforming cap and sales of $400,000 – $600,000 homes, which were damnably slow to begin with have dried up completely.
It is true that it has not impacted the broader base of our business because our median price has fallen from the mid-$500’s to the high $200’s or low $300’s. But what about when the market snaps back? And it will. It always does. Even Obama can’t kill the innate drive for the American Dream of Homeownership. So what happens in my little market, or the broader California market, or the other 593 higher cost counties in 42 states when the median price again creeps over that cap?
Well, lenders are working on a solution to that even as we speak. The only question is – what are they going to call sub-prime next time? That name’s probably played out.
Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.