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Mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac battle banks on who gets stuck with …

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac battle banks on who gets stuck with bad housing loans

Blog entry: October 4, 2012, 2:00 pm     |     Author: SCOTT SUTTELL

A battle over who gets stuck with tens of billions worth of bad housing loans “explains why many Americans still can’t get a mortgage as interest rates hit a new low,” according to this Wall Street Journal story, which includes comments from Bill Cosgrove, CEO of Union National Mortgage Co. in Strongsville.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is about 3.5%, the lowest since the 1950s. “But thousands of would-be homeowners are being locked out of the market because lenders, facing a hard-line stance from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have grown wary of making new loans,” The Journal says.

The mortgage giants “have been forcing banks to take back an increasing number of loans that the banks made during the boom years and sold to Fannie and Freddie,” according to the newspaper. “To protect themselves from such demands in the future, banks are ratcheting up credit and documentation standards for new mortgages.”

So far, The Journal notes, Fannie and Freddie have asked banks to repurchase $66 billion in mortgages made between 2006 and 2008, according to an analysis of federal filings by Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry newsletter. The balance of outstanding demands from both companies at the end of July was up 37% from a year earlier.

These so called “put-backs” help recover money for Fannie and Freddie, which The Journal says have turned small profits in recent quarters after getting a $142 billion taxpayer bailout. Indeed, buying back defective mortgages “is part of the business if we make a legitimate mistake,” says Union National’s Mr. Cosgrove.

But Fannie and Freddie, in some case, go too far.

“Earlier this year, Mr. Cosgrove faced a demand from Fannie Mae to repurchase a $103,000 mortgage his bank had made in 2003 after the homeowner in Garfield Heights, defaulted in late 2010,” The Journal notes.

The latest example, because the borrower made regular payments for so many years, is proof that the loan put-back process “has become more and more ridiculous,” Mr. Cosgrove tells the newspaper. Fannie reviewed the lender’s 2003 property appraisal and decided the valuation was inaccurate. The dispute hasn’t been resolved, The Journal reports.

New in the neighborhood

The fancy new MOCA Cleveland building opening next week “may make the loudest design statement, but it’s far from the only symbol of bold, 21st century urbanism in the University Circle neighborhood” of Cleveland, according to this post from

“The neighborhood has seen a diverse set of investments, including high density residential projects, new medical facilities and academic buildings, even multiple public transit initiatives,” according to the website. “University Circle now stands out as a diverse hub of activity in a city clamoring for such things.”

The story attributes some of the improvement to the catalytic effect of RTA’s HealthLine, a bus rapid transit route connecting the neighborhood to downtown.

“Blessed by a significant cluster of university, medical, cultural, and transit facilities, it is in a fortunate position to generate private sector development (the neighborhood has grown to support around 3 million visitors, 50,000 jobs and 10,000 resident) that many surrounding communities still cannot since losing their industrial base in the last century,” says.

But it’s not all praise.

The story says University Circle’s success “feels more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. Population loss is the norm to the immediate north, east, and west of University Circle. Few cities in America have lost more people since the 1960s than Cleveland, with an overall drop of 17 percent in the last 10 years.”

The art of the game

Clevelander Mike McGrath considers basketball a beautiful sport, and his work is a constant reminder of that feeling.

This blog post on ESPN’s website looks at a basketball art blog, Double Scribble, created by Mr. McGrath and his friend (and fellow Cleveland native) Nick Kastner, now based in Durham, N.C.

Messrs. McGrath and Kastner are collaborating with Cleveland art gallery BUCKBUCK to put on an exhibition called “Art of the Game: A Celebration of Art Basketball,” that starts Oct. 20 and runs into November.

“The site itself has more or less always been a gallery, sharing other artists’ work and getting their work out to our audience has always been one of my favorite aspects of the site,” Mr. McGrath, 25, tells ESPN via email. “The next logical step was moving from the web into the real world. It was important for us to have our first ever show here in Cleveland, having both been born and raised in the area. So we met with the guys from BUCKBUCK Studio through a mutual friend, they loved the idea and it just came together from there.”

Longtime Cavaliers fans will love some of the images on the Double Scribble site, especially those of Terrell Brandon, Austin Carr and Mark Price.

You also can follow me on Twitter for more news about business and Northeast Ohio.

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WATCH: Protesters Arrested In Front Of Fannie Mae Headquarters


WATCH: Protesters Arrested In Front Of Fannie Mae Headquarters

“Fannie Mae, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” chanted over 200 homeowners and renters from across the country, who protested today in front of Fannie Mae headquarters in Northwest, Washington D.C.. The protestors gathered to demand the resignation of acting Federal Housing Authority Director Edward DeMarco, whose agency oversees twin Government-backed mortgage regulators Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“What do we do when the banks attack?” they shouted. “Stand up, fight back.”

The protestors said they want President Obama to replace DeMarco at the FHA with a director who will prevent Fannie and Freddie from issuing post-foreclosure evictions. They also demanded the following:

– Fannie Freddie sell back to residents or a non-profit after foreclosure at real value

– Fannie Freddie don’t sell to hedge funds or other investors who caused the problem in the first place, but instead turn over properties to community control, or sell back at current market value to occupants

Five woman were arrested for blocking passage outside the Fannie Mae complex after local police issued three warnings for them to get out of the street.

“I will do whatever it takes to keep my  home even if I have to go to jail,” said Massachusetts resident Virginia Wooten, a protester that was detained.

“The banks got bailed out and we got sold out, they got the money and we got the bill,” said California resident Nell Myhand, another protester that was arrested.

The protesters referred to themselves as the Fannie Freddie 99 Fighters, and expressed frustration over the fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the largest holders of vacant foreclosures. They have traveled to five major ciites demanding immediate attention and action from leaders at the twin GSE’s (Government Sponsored Enterprises).

“We respect the right to protest and voice opinions,” Fannie Mae spokesman Andrew Wilson told TRNS. “Every day, Fannie Mae is focused on helping homeowners who are struggling. The bottom line is that we want to prevent foreclosure whenever possible.”

The women who were arrested included Wooten, Myhand, Renika Wheeler from Georgia, Deborah Nowell from Massachusetts and Roline Burgson from Rhode Island.

Malcolm Chu, a community organizer at Springfield No One Leaves, told TRNS that his organization will pay the $50 bail fee incurred by the protestors who were arrested.

The mob of protestors were expected to protest in front of DeMarco’s Silver Spring, Md. home later in the day.

Repeat home buyers fuel housing recovery

(MoneyWatch) Across most of the country, home prices remain affordable and rents continue to rise. And while today’s investors are helping the housing recovery, they’re not completely responsible. Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) suggests that traditional repeat buyers are driving today’s market.

According to a recent joint survey by and Memphis Invest, 39 percent of investors plan to buy more properties over the next 12 months than they did over the last year. Twenty-six percent of investors plan to purchase the same number of properties.

“Though housing markets are changing across the nation, investors are still seeing great opportunities. Hundreds of thousands of foreclosures and short sales are coming to market and rents are continuing to improve in most markets, creating a positive environment for the nation’s 2.81 million residential real estate investors,” Joshua Dorkin, founder and CEO of, said in a press release.

“They will certainly continue to be major player in the nation’s housing economy for the foreseeable future,” he added.

According to the survey, one out of eight — or 28.1 million Americans — either consider themselves to be residential real estate investors or own residential investment properties today, according to the survey. That high number is not surprising when you consider many homeowners are renting out properties they’d rather sell.

NAR data shows investors accounted for an average 22 percent of the market share from 2003 to 2011.

There are perks to investors taking an active interest in today’s real estate market. With millions of Americans actively investing in real estate, billions of dollars are being poured into repairs. The results of the survey reveal that real estate investors are spending more than the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to rehabilitate neighborhoods.

Recent NAR data suggests that investors absorbing the over-supply of inventory helped stabilize the housing market. Residential real estate investors have spent more than four times the amount of money HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program has to repair foreclosed and short-sale homes, the Invest survey says.

At a median expenditure of $7,500 per property owned, investors are spending a total of $9.2 billion per year to repair the damage caused by foreclosures. By comparison, Congress has authorized a total of about $7 billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program over the past four years.

Investors continue to purchase single-family homes as investment property


Chris Clothier, a partner with Memphis Invest, believes investors are improving neighborhoods and driving local economies. They are purchasing properties that would otherwise sit vacant for months, dragging down area home prices, and using local electricians, plumbers and labor to update the homes. “Those dollars provide jobs and put money into local economies. It’s clear that investors are the ones who are risking their own money to improve and stabilize neighborhoods for new owners or tenants,” Clothier said in a press release.

Investor activity has benefited the housing market, but there’s a downside too. “Investors have been largely purchasing with all-cash, which puts first-time buyers at a significant disadvantage,” Walter Molony, a NAR spokesman, said in an e-mail. “Both investors and entry-level buyers have been focused on low price ranges, with investors winning the deals since they don’t have a need for financing.”

Molony points out that the situation has flipped in 2012, as the supply-demand situation is now balanced in much of the country — except for the West and Florida, where NAR says housing shortages are putting pressure on home prices.

So while the Invest survey shows investors planning to continue purchasing and rehabbing property, NAR data shows the overall investor market share is on the decline. The drop started in March, and since April investor market share has averaged 18 percent — below its long-time average of 22 percent.

Investors certainly help fuel the housing recovery, but NAR data shows they aren’t the driving force. “First-time homebuyers are also below their long-term average with housing shortages in the low price ranges and a headwind of tight credit,” notes Molony. “At present, the market is being driven by an increase in traditional repeat buyers.”

Realtors Pony Up Another $2 Million to Kill Phantom Tax

The National Association of Realtors pumped another $1.3 million in support of the Measure 79 campaign, which seeks to amend the Oregon constitution to prohibit real estate transfer taxes. State filings show the Oregon Association of Realtors added an additional $700,000. The two groups have now put up more than $5 million to ban a practice that has already been illegal in Oregon since 1989 (except for a one-tenth of a percent tax in Washington County which predated that 1989 law).

As WW previously reported, proponents of the constitutional ban have produced misleading campaign propaganda that could lead voters to believe that a transfer tax is imminent but repeated attempts to pass such legislation in Salem have met with dismal failure.

Fixed mortgage rates break records for second straight week – e

Fixed mortgage rates break records for second straight week

15-year fixed rates fall below 5-year ARM rates

Interest rates for fixed-rate mortgages broke record lows for the second straight week, Freddie Mac said in its weekly mortgage report.

According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending October 4, 2012, both 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgage rates fell to new all-time record lows.

In addition, the average rate for 15-year fixed mortgages dropped below that of 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) for the first time since October 2009.

Fixed mortgage rates continue sliding

Average rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 3.36 percent in this latest data. The previous week, 30-year fixed mortgages averaged 3.40 percent, while the average one year ago stood at 3.94 percent.

Shorter-term 15-year fixed mortgages averaged 2.69 percent, a drop from 2.73 percent the previous week and significantly below the average of 3.26 percent observed at this time a year ago.

ARMs show mixed results

Average rates for 5-year ARMs rose slightly to 2.72 percent from last week’s 2.71 percent average, while 1-year ARMs dropped week-over-week from an average of 2.60 percent to 2.57 percent.

One year ago at this time, 5-year ARMs and 1-year ARMs averaged 2.95 percent.

“Fixed mortgage rates fell again this week to all-time record lows due to the mortgage securities purchases by the Federal Reserve and indicators of a weakening economy,” Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in a statement.

Nothaft highlighted areas of concern in the economy based on recent data.

“The final estimate of growth in Gross Domestic Product was revised down to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, representing the slowest growth in a year,” he said. “In addition, personal incomes rose only 0.1 percent in August, while July’s increase was revised downward. And finally, pending home sales in August fell 2.6 percent, well below the market consensus forecast of a slight increase.”

Posted in: Mortgage, Mortgage Rates, Refinance, Refinance Rates

Mortgage News: This article was published on 10-8-2012 at 8:57 am.

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Realtors pour another $1.3 million into Measure 79 anti-tax campaign; is it a …

pendingsale.jpgThe real estate industry has so far put more than $4.6 million into a ballot measure this fall to ban new fees and taxes on real estate sales in Oregon.The National Association of Realtors reported over the weekend that it has put another $1.3 million into the campaign in favor of Oregon’s Measure 79, which would ban new taxes and fees on real estate sales.

The state and national Realtors have now put in more than $4.6 million for their fall campaign to amend the state Constitution to ban such taxes.  That’s a lot of money for a ballot measure that faces only low-dollar opposition.

Jon Coney, the spokesman for the Yes on 79 campaign, says proponents always envisioned a “robust” campaign in favor of it.

But there are also signs that the the Realtors put the extra money in because Measure 79 is a difficult sell with voters.  The most intriguing bit of information comes from Our Oregon, a labor-backed group opposed to the measure.

Scott Moore, the group’s communications director, said an August poll conducted for Our Oregon read voters the ballot title and asked for their opinion.  Only 22 percent said yes and a whopping 57 percent said they were against.

“They know they have a significant problem with voters,” said Moore, “and that’s why they have to dump millions of dollars into their campaign.”

Coney said the Our Oregon polling “seem significantly lower than what we have seen.”  But he conceded that his group’s surveys show that “voters need to be educated” to get them into the yes category.

“We’re in a position of saying vote yes to vote no on real estate taxes,” said Coney, “so there are tricky dynamics there.”

Whatever the case, opponents are enjoying the possibility that Realtors may be struggling.   “You don’t dump another $1 million in at this point when you’ve got no opposition unless something is up,” said Ryan Deckert, president of the Oregon Business Association.

His group also opposes the measure but doesn’t plan to spend any money fighting it.  Our Oregon criticizes the measure in its direct mail pieces but also doesn’t plan an expensive opposition campaign.

Moore, Deckert and other critics say there is no need for the constitutional ban.   The Oregon Legislature has already banned localities from imposing new real estate transfer fees and there has been no serious move to do so at the state level.

But officials from the Oregon Association of Realtors have argued that they want to foreclose the possibility of turning to real estate fees, which some states have used to raise significant revenue.

–Jeff Mapes

NAR Talks Directly to America’s Property Owners

As “The Voice for Real Estate” for more than 100 years, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has turned up the volume on its consumer-facing communications, and consumers are listening. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Policymakers are considering sweeping changes to federal government programs and incentives that could dramatically change the nature of homeownership for years to come.

NAR is vitally aware of the importance of preserving the American Dream of homeownership—for its members as well as for consumers. In fact, research shows the significant positive effect homeownership has on individual net worth, civic participation, educational achievement and overall quality of life in communities across America.

REALTORS® and Consumers Working Together

Ultimately, NAR wants to establish a marriage of common interest with REALTORS® and consumers—enlisting them to take action and become advocates for real estate issues—with the goal of working together to preserve access to homeownership, and making NAR the voice for real estate consumers as well.

Regularly leveraging a variety of channels, including national print and electronic media campaigns, a website and a national real estate-themed radio show to reach consumers, NAR recently introduced a comprehensive direct-to-consumer communications plan. The plan is designed to reach every homeowner and potential homeowner in the United States—a prospective 80 million households over the next three years.

NAR’s direct-to-consumer outreach will ensure that REALTORS® go beyond the transaction and are involved in the entire lifecycle of homeownership. Through a powerful combination of bought, owned, leveraged and earned media, NAR will reach the average homeowner more than 40 times per year over the next three years for a total of more than 509 million impressions per month with clear, concise, consistent and repetitive messaging.

Public Awareness/Public Advocacy Campaign

For more than a decade, NAR’s Public Awareness Campaign has been effective in establishing the professionalism of REALTORS® as trusted experts to help consumers in the process of buying and selling a home. Key issues highlighted nationally to consumers and public policymakers include access to affordable mortgage financing, tax incentives for homeownership, overly stringent credit requirements and cumbersome short sales and foreclosures.

Now the focus of the campaign has shifted to advocacy, with its newest TV and radio spot, “Moving Pictures,” highlighting positive messages about the benefits of homeownership to children, families and communities.

Real Estate Today Radio Program

On radio stations nationwide, satellite, podcasts and mobile phones, NAR’s “Real Estate Today” radio program opens doors for buyers and sellers with critical, credible information on the real estate market. This fast-paced and fact-packed program with experts, interviews, call-ins, field reports, and timely market conditions is heard on over 185 stations in all 50 states and has over five million listeners per month.


NAR’s HouseLogic website is a free source of information and tools that help homeowners make smart decisions and take responsible actions to maintain, protect and enhance the value of their home. With nearly one million unique visitors per month, homeowners are depending on HouseLogic to plan and organize their home projects. HouseLogic provides timely articles and news, home improvement advice, and how-tos and information about taxes, home finances and insurance.

In addition, through the REALTOR® Content Resource, NAR members can repurpose articles from HouseLogic for their consumer communications. These articles, which cover all aspects of homeownership, including home buying and selling, are ready when and how brokers choose to use them—Facebook, Twitter, email, website, blog or handouts.

An Ongoing Commitment as the Voice for Real Estate

By fostering consumer advocacy, and an ongoing relationship between real estate professionals and consumers, NAR will continue to be the trusted voice for real estate, and ensure that the American Dream of homeownership is preserved for generations to come.

Sources:, www.retradio.comm,

Special master: Mortgage crisis a ‘Gordian knot’

PPROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A former bank executive working to hasten a resolution to hundreds of foreclosure disputes in Rhode Island’s federal courts calls the mortgage crisis a “Gordian knot” and says debt forgiveness needs to be part of the solution.

Former Bank Rhode Island CEO Merrill Sherman said in her special master’s report to U.S. District Judge John McConnell last week that the best approach to fixing the mortgage crisis is reducing struggling homeowners’ loan amounts — an approach that has garnered significant resistance from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac despite pressure from the Obama administration.

Sherman called it “economic folly” for defaulting homeowners to stay in homes that are underwater — or worth less than the amount owed — by means of other loan modifications, including stretching out payments over a longer period of time and reducing interest rates.

Rhode Island has the highest foreclosure rate in New England and one of the highest in the country. Hundreds of homeowners in the state have sued, saying their mortgage foreclosure proceedings were fraudulent or flawed.

McConnell appointed Sherman special master in January to bring together homeowners and lenders to negotiate settlements and keep people in their homes.

As of Sept. 28, 215 of the cases Sherman is overseeing involved homes already foreclosed on, with more than three-quarters of the plaintiffs still living in the properties. In 288 cases, the homes had not yet been foreclosed on. The median mortgage size was $226,000.

Sherman said she could not yet report on how productive the settlement process has been because so many requests to modify loans are pending and she doesn’t yet know the outcomes.

Of the 131 settlement conferences Sherman held between Aug. 7 and Sept. 13, the report said, 81 led to requests for loan modifications and 33 led to “cash for keys” negotiations, a program in which homeowners are effectively offered money to leave. Nine cases have been resolved, and one dismissed.

Rhode Island was also one of 49 states to sign on to a $25 billion settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage services. Some 5,500 Rhode Islanders who lost their homes because of improper foreclosures are eligible to claim funds under that agreement.

Sherman said “nothing could be worse” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than if homeowners stopped fighting their foreclosures and handed over the deeds to the homes. In that case, she wrote, Fannie and Freddie “would be TOAST.”

“All they would have is the present (reduced) value of the property, marketing and maintenance expenses and a worthless claim against the borrower(s),” she wrote. “That would mean immediate and worse losses.”

Sherman said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already cost taxpayers billions of dollars in part because their lawyers “have the capacity to litigate indefinitely.”

“So our taxpayer dollars are being utilized to fund a significant amount of lawyering that may not be productive from a business standpoint,” she wrote.

The financially troubled mortgage agencies were taken over in 2008 by the U.S. government. Edward DeMarco, head of the agency that oversees them, has insisted that writing down mortgage amounts isn’t in taxpayers’ best interests. He said some homeowners could abuse the process and fall delinquent to reap the benefits of principal forgiveness.

How I Misread the Risks at Fannie and Freddie

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

I recently wrote four blog posts about people who, in my estimation, misread some of the risks building up at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the two government-chartered mortgage companies had to be rescued by the U.S. Treasury in September 2008.

After I completed this series, which was based on my newly published book, “The Fateful History of Fannie Mae,” it occurred to me that I had left out someone else whose foresight had been faulty: me.

So here is my belated confession. I began covering housing, including Fannie and Freddie, for The Wall Street Journal at the beginning of 2004. Much of my reporting that year focused on a regulatory investigation of accounting practices at Fannie Mae, which followed disclosures that Freddie had violated accounting rules. In September 2004, my colleague John D. McKinnon and I were the first to report that the regulator was about to accuse Fannie of manipulating its accounting to make earnings growth look smoother than it really was. (See article.)

The ensuing scandal emboldened critics of Fannie. It seemed likely to increase chances that Congress would crack down on both Fannie and Freddie, perhaps limiting their ability to keep growing by borrowing ever larger amounts of money. White House economic advisers, the Treasury and even the revered Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan were all baying for much tougher regulation.

But the two companies remained highly effective in their lobbying and thwarted efforts in Congress to enact such regulation. They and their allies, including home builders and Realtors, warned that a much stricter regulatory regime could prevent Fannie and Freddie from funneling enough money into mortgages to keep the housing market healthy.

After watching Fannie and Freddie elude a regulatory crackdown—as they had evaded so many past efforts to constrain them—I began to believe they possessed a cockroach-like ability to survive almost any calamity.

One of the biggest worries at Fannie and Freddie at the peak of the housing bubble in 2004 and 2005 was that Wall Street was taking away much of their business in packaging mortgages into securities. By mid-2007, though, a surge in mortgage defaults was forcing Wall Street to retreat in disarray from that once-lucrative market. This retreat allowed Fannie and Freddie to begin regaining market share. It also bolstered their political clout because suddenly the housing market was much more reliant on them: They were the last remaining pillars in the mortgage world, the only hope of avoiding a total collapse of housing.

In early August 2007, I wrote an article noting this trend. I opened boldly with these lines:

The mortgage-market meltdown isn’t over, but it already has produced two clear winners: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s biggest investors in home loans.

Until recently, politicians in Washington were arguing about how best to rein in the two giant government-sponsored companies, both recovering from accounting scandals and lapses in financial controls. Now, as worry about the housing market trumps accounting scruples, the political debate has shifted to whether Fannie and Freddie need to grow even bigger to buy more loans and calm mortgage investors.

History Press
Book cover of ‘The Fateful History of Fannie Mae’

That was true—but only for the short term. I included a skeptical comment from Joshua Rosner, a securities analyst in New York, who said it was a “mass delusion” to believe that Fannie and Freddie could save the mortgage market. But I failed to elaborate on what might go wrong with the thesis stated at the top of my story. Over the following year it became clear that Fannie and Freddie had bought so many high-risk loans that foreclosure losses would wipe out their meager capital as housing prices plunged.

One problem was that I had been too willing to believe Fannie and Freddie when they insisted they were being prudent in their purchases of subprime and other high-risk mortgage loans. (I thought the accounting scandals had chastened them into more cautious behavior.) Another was that I fell into the common trap of believing that a mouse that outruns the cat for nine days in a row is likely to keep repeating that trick.


How Paul Volcker Misread Fannie Mae
How Greenspan Misread the Risks at Fannie and Freddie
How Nixon Expanded Fannie Mae’s Footprint
How Joseph Stiglitz Misread the Risks at Fannie Mae