Skip to comments.Obama’s new re-fi plan a gamechanger? (New program for borrowers who are current on their mortgages)
Posted on 01/25/2012 8:33:58 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Jim Pethokoukis thinks it might be, but I’m not so sure. As described by Barack Obama, the program is a significant expansion of a couple of programs that so far had been limited to Fannie/Freddie-backed mortgages. CNBC explains that the new initiative will now promote refinancing for mortgages no matter if backed by one of the two troubled GSEs or not, but with “precious few details” on hand, much of the program remains unclear:
After several largely ineffective programs to help troubled borrowers and after fruitless attempts at budging the hard-line conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, President Obama is proposing a brand new refinance program for borrowers who are current on their mortgages, regardless of who owns their loan; the catch is that this one has to go through Congress.
“I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks,” the President announced in his State of the Union address.
Unlike previous efforts in the refinance space, including a recently revamped and expanded government program for borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth, this plan would not be limited to those with loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to senior administration officials. The two mortgage giants own or guarantee about half of the nation’s mortgages. It would be open to all borrowers current on their loans.
The Obama administration is offering precious few details, promising more in the coming weeks, but several sources say the plan is to ask Congress to allow the government mortgage insurer, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), to back refinances of underwater mortgages. No estimates were given as to how many borrowers such a plan could potentially help, only that this would be a voluntary, borrower-initiated plan, and not a blanket refinance of all borrowers.
There are a lot of holes in this plan, not the least of which is why homeowners who are current on payments more than three years after the collapse need government assistance. They may be underwater on their mortgages, but if they are making their payments, then they are at no risk as long as they don’t need to sell. Their monthly payments gradually will eliminate the negative equity in their asset. Refinancing will speed that up slightly by lowering interest rates, but if these houses were bought during the bubble, the current interest rate is probably low from a historical perspective anyway. And to fix the negative equity, those homeowners would have to forego saving the $3000 a year to plow it back into the principal anyway.
Pethokoukis calls this a “housing policy bombshell,” but then summarizes AEI’s Ed Pinto to explain why it will be a dud:
But surely questions will be raised if the FHA is the vehicle. As AEIs Ed Pinto explains, the FHAs capital position using private-industry standards shows the FHA to be deeply insolvent. The FHA is estimated to have a current net worth of $17 billion and an estimated capital shortfall of $3553 billion. Private regulators would shut it down rather than continuing to allow it to grow its way out of its insolvency. Republicans will have lots of questions and may balk if this smells like a moral hazard-inducing housing bailout. (It is just this sort of thing that launched the Tea Party movement, after all.) Then theres the bank tax to deal with. This SOTU shocker may well be the talk of the markets today.
Pethokoukis also relies on estimates that indicate up to 10 million homeowners will take the opportunity to refinance through this program, and an average savings of $3000 per year would pump $30 billion more into the economy each year. However, if the problem is negative equity, then that money will go to paying down mortgage debt, not to increased consumer spending, which would render it impactless in the short or even medium term — and that’s assuming that the 10 million number is valid. We saw plenty of numbers like this in the proposals already put in place by the Obama administration to deal with housing issues, and the actual number of people who qualified for and received assistance fell far, far short of estimates. In fact, if the program operated as Pethokoukis assumes in generating spending cash for homeowners who are already under water, then it’s not that different from what helped drive the housing bubble in the first place: the use of home equity as an ATM for irrational consumer spending.
Being underwater on a mortgage is a tough economic position, but no tougher than people who invest in other assets and end up having less value than what they invested. If homeowners find themselves in this position, they can keep paying the mortgage and eventually get above water on equity while continuing to live in their homes, which isn’t ideal but certainly isn’t an emergency that warrants picking the pockets of other taxpayers. It also won’t do anything to prevent or minimize foreclosures, which is one of the actual problems in the housing market. This is nothing more than a bald attempt to buy a few votes at the expense of taxpayers and banks, and it will exacerbate the very problems it purports to address. Game-changer? More like an overtime period.
How can note holders be forced to allow refinancing without either taking their property or giving them more federal free money? Obama is on a new spending spree with our (soon to be) worthless dollars.
Isn’t this the plan Rush Limbaugh was talking about a couple months ago, and then the regime came out and said it wasn’t a real plan?
so the masses will love Dear Leader and hang his portrait on their gubmint financed wall.
The article is correct, that most who bought at the peak of the housing bubble probably already have low interest rates. If you limit the program to those with high interest rates, where a refinance could really help, they probably have poor credit (thus, a high interest rate). This sounds like a plan that has just one purpose - to garner votes from not so thoughtful voters.
How many taxpayer funded Re-Fi programs has O'Bozo already announced?
How many have just put more money in the hands of cronies and done little to help the deserving homeowner?
:: they are at no risk as long as they dont need to sell. ::
As Cletus is finding out in the suburban Chicago market!
I wonder how many underwater loans are refis, where the homeowner stripped the equity out to spend the money on consumer items (cars,tvs,vacatrions, etc.). If this situation is allowed, then this is another free money scheme, and is pure evil.
Reducing interest rates and monthly mortgage payments does release more money into other consumer areas of the economy.
And of course, re-fi related closing costs are big income boosters to lawyers and banks.
Pure takeover BS, same old play, create a department or program, have it go broke and tax everyone else in the name of fairness, here is my definition of fairness...that the government not be given 1 cent of our money until they represent what we want, then money to the federal government will be metered and slow to come...
at our will..anything short is slavery..
It basically says yes to someone who asks: “you already have my mortgage, why can't I refinance without all the hassle”
But not all Fannie Freddie loans will be HARP eligible when we check. Not sure why.
Some on the Left this morning are claiming this is just a populist piece of candy being offered to get us to swallow the accompanying bag of dog poo (i.e. amnesty for all those banks involved in robosigning of foreclosures)
There is NO housing crisis.
There is a JOBS crisis.
The population is growing and the labor force is SHRINKING.
More people, fewer people working, it is called Socialism.
Work force participation rates are approaching those of the Great Depression.
When labor participation starts to rise along with real incomes, then the housing crisis will take care of itself.
You cannot prop up a housing market at its bottom with public money which has to be borrowed from China or whoever is buying our debt.
This economy cannot be turned around as long as Barry is in the White House, but changing Presidents is not going to turn this country around.
Newt correctly said the other night that Dodd-Frank needs to be repealed immediately but that ain’t happening as long as the treacherous Dems and the RINOS control the Senate no matter who the POTUS is.
“My EPA and Bammycare trashed the job market you lost your job and your credit rating sank...here’s a carrot- be sure to pull the lever marked ‘0’ in November and vote early and often, sucker”
Didn’t they do something like this once or twice already?
Same stuff, different day.
Having recently refinanced my FHA mortgage after battling like hell to keep current in this O-conomy, I simply say:
The banks might like being able to unload the loans they hold in their portfolios, ie not Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie, with this refinance plan. All the risk is going to be shifted to the FHA. Of course it us taxpayers who are the ultimate guarantors. In a sense this is an indirect bail out of the banks. I am sure BofA would love to unload all the potential crap in their loan book from Countrywide.
This is a scam of the highest degree...... what most people do not take into account is principal owed vs interest owed....if you are paying more to principal than interest, when you refi you will be paying more to the interest than the debt.... this is a way to actually put yourself further in debt by removing the equity you have built up.... take my case, I am toward the end of my mortgage, and pay almost 100% towards the principal. In reality, my interest rate is now zero percent. If I refinance the balance at 3%, my first few years will go almost 100% to interest. This will actually take cash out of my pocket and put it into the banks... Before you do anything, look at the principal / interest percentage of your payment.
Wasnt part of this plan, that the lender gets a percentage of any future rise in the value of the house? The details on this are gonna stink,, people NOT behind on their mortgage will drop a point on their rates,, and then discover the bank is now a co-owner of the future equity.
Seems pretty obvious to me they want to write new mortgages that contain something the old ones didn’t.