Industrial and Multi-family Loans Drive Annual CRE Increase

The Mortgage Bankers Association
(MBA) reports that commercial and multifamily loan originations were down 7
percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the third quarter but were 13
percent higher than originations in the fourth quarter a year earlier.  The year-over year change was driven by
originations for both industrial and multifamily properties which increased 43
percent and 31 percent respectively from Q4 2010.  On the negative side, retail loans were down
8 percent, loans for healthcare properties fell 24 percent, office properties
were down 29 percent and hotel originations decreased 44 percent.

Quarter over quarter results were
mixed.  There was a 153 percent jump in
originations for health care properties; industrial loans were up 51 percent
and multifamily properties increased 29 percent.  Originations for healthcare properties fell 52
percent, office properties were down 39 percent, and retail property loans
decreased 24 percent.

Looking at lending by investor groups,
commercial bank portfolios were up by 122 percent compared to the fourth
quarter of 2010 and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the GSEs) increased lending 17
percent.  Life insurance companies and
conduits for commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) decreased lending by
23 percent and 50 percent respectively.

 On a quarter-over-quarter basis only the GSEs
increased their loans, which rose 34 percent to an all time high.  Conduits for CMBS were down 26 percent, life
insurance companies decreased lending by 23 percent, and commercial bank
portfolios declined by 16 percent.  

“MBA’s Commercial/Multifamily
Mortgage Bankers Origination Index hit record levels for life insurance
companies in the second and third quarters of 2011,” said Jamie Woodwell,
MBA’s Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Research. “In the fourth
quarter, multifamily originations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hit a new
all-time high. While the CMBS market continued to be held back by broader
capital markets uncertainty during the past year, others – like the GSEs, life
companies and many bank portfolios – increased their appetite for commercial
and multifamily loans.”

Commercial/Multi-family
Originations by Investor Types

Investor
Type

Origination Volume Index*

% Chg

Q4-Q4

Average Loan Size ($millions)

Q3 2011

Q4 2011

Q3 2011

Q4 2011

Conduits

42

31

-50

30.5

23.9

Commercial
Banks

169

143

122

11.8

7.8

Life
Insurance

282

216

-13

20.5

14.0

GSEs

176

236

17

13.8

14.3

Total

138

129

13

14,9

11.6

*2001 Ave. Quarter = 100

Commercial/Multi-family
Originations by Property Types

Investor
Type

Origination Volume Index*

% Chg

Q4-Q4

Average Loan Size ($millions)

Q3 2011

Q4 2011

Q3 2011

Q4 2011

Multi-family

140

181

31

13.2

13.5

Office

91

56

-29

19.1

11.7

Retail

222

169

-8

20.9

12.3

Industrial

142

214

43

12.4

16.2

Hotel

231

110

-44

39.0

20.1

Health
Care

91

229

-24

7.2

12.4

*2001 Ave. Quarter = 100

…(read more)

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Nearly 100 Metro Areas on Improving Market List

The list of Improving Housing Markets (IHM) maintained by
the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) took another big jump in
February, rising from 76 in January and more than doubling the 41 reported in
December.  There are now 98 metropolitan
areas
representing 36 states included on the list.

The IHM identifies metropolitan areas that have shown
improvement from their respective troughs on each of three metrics –
employment, housing permits, and home prices – for at least six consecutive
months.  NAHB uses data from the Bureau
of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and Freddie Mac to measure
improved performance.

The additions to the February Index include some
metropolitan areas that had been particularly weak including Miami, Detroit,
Memphis, Kansas City, Missouri; Portland, Oregon, and Salt Lake City.  NAHB points out that inclusion in the Index
does not indicate strong recovery, merely that some of these troubled areas are
coming off of extreme lows.

Seven metro areas dropped off of the Index in February due
to softening housing prices.  One of
these was Washington, DC, one of the few areas that had continued to show
strong prices and sales through 2011. 

“While many of the markets on the February IMI are far from fully
recovered, the index points out where employment, home prices and housing
production are no longer retreating and have held above their lowest recession
troughs for six months or more,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
“This is a sign that a large cross section of the country is starting to
turn the corner as local economic conditions stabilize.”

 MSA  Permits Trough Date Growth From Trough Prices Trough Date Growth From Trough Employment Trough Date Growth From Trough
1 Florence, AL 03/31/09 2.6% 02/28/11 0.6% 07/31/09 3.9%
2 Tuscaloosa, AL 05/31/11 8.8% 02/28/11 3.6% 06/30/09 1.7%
3 Fayetteville, AR 03/31/09 1.2% 02/28/11 1.0% 02/28/10 3.0%
4 Napa, CA 06/30/11 31.2% 02/28/11 0.3% 02/28/11 3.3%
5 Boulder, CO 11/30/09 11.6% 01/31/11 6.2% 01/31/10 2.7%
6 Denver, CO 03/31/09 2.8% 02/28/11 2.1% 01/31/10 1.4%
7 Fort Collins, CO 03/31/09 4.5% 12/31/10 4.6% 12/31/09 3.5%
8 Greeley, CO 11/30/10 8.1% 02/28/11 3.3% 12/31/09 0.1%
9 Bridgeport, CT 03/31/09 1.2% 02/28/11 4.5% 01/31/10 1.4%
10 New Haven, CT 04/30/11 26.0% 02/28/11 0.0% 02/28/10 2.1%
11 Cape Coral, FL 03/31/09 3.1% 02/28/11 8.1% 01/31/11 1.7%
12 Deltona, FL 03/31/11 2.6% 03/31/11 15.1% 01/31/11 3.3%
13 Jacksonville, FL 04/30/09 1.4% 02/28/11 1.5% 02/28/10 2.3%
14 Miami, FL 04/30/09 7.3% 03/31/11 2.6% 03/31/10 1.7%
15 North Port, FL 01/31/09 2.7% 02/28/11 6.2% 06/30/11 1.2%
16 Punta Gorda, FL 01/31/09 1.6% 02/28/11 11.5% 06/30/09 3.5%
17 Tampa, FL 03/31/09 1.7% 03/31/11 3.8% 12/31/09 2.6%
18 Athens, GA 03/31/11 4.2% 01/31/11 2.7% 01/31/10 0.8%
19 Augusta, GA 12/31/08 1.7% 03/31/11 3.0% 05/31/11 0.0%
20 Honolulu, HI 12/31/08 0.4% 01/31/11 3.4% 08/31/10 3.1%
21 Ames, IA 07/31/10 7.4% 02/28/11 6.3% 05/31/11 2.4%
22 Davenport, IA 05/31/09 1.8% 12/31/10 4.1% 01/31/10 0.7%
23 Des Moines, IA 02/28/09 4.5% 01/31/11 2.6% 05/31/11 1.5%
24 Dubuque, IA 12/31/08 5.0% 02/28/11 3.1% 04/30/09 5.8%
25 Waterloo, IA 03/31/09 1.4% 11/30/10 0.9% 07/31/09 4.1%
26 Elkhart, IN 04/30/09 2.2% 02/28/11 1.5% 08/31/09 10.4%
27 Indianapolis, IN 01/31/09 0.4% 02/28/11 3.0% 10/31/09 0.6%
28 Lafayette, IN 01/31/09 15.7% 02/28/11 5.4% 07/31/09 4.0%
29 Muncie, IN 04/30/11 11.1% 02/28/10 3.4% 02/28/11 2.7%
30 Lake Charles, LA 04/30/11 6.2% 02/28/11 0.9% 11/30/10 3.6%
31 Monroe, LA 03/31/09 3.3% 05/31/10 3.6% 03/31/11 1.3%
32 Shreveport, LA 01/31/09 1.9% 03/31/11 5.6% 10/31/09 3.2%
33 Boston, MA 02/28/09 1.1% 03/31/11 0.7% 07/31/09 2.9%
34 Springfield, MA 04/30/11 3.8% 03/31/11 2.5% 08/31/09 2.6%
35 Cumberland, MD 05/31/10 3.1% 01/31/11 6.2% 06/30/11 6.5%
36 Lewiston, ME 06/30/11 16.1% 01/31/11 1.4% 06/30/11 3.8%
37 Ann Arbor, MI 05/31/09 0.1% 12/31/10 4.5% 07/31/09 3.0%
38 Detroit, MI 04/30/09 8.6% 03/31/11 6.8% 06/30/09 2.4%
39 Grand Rapids, MI 04/30/09 2.9% 02/28/11 7.7% 07/31/09 5.0%
40 Lansing, MI 05/31/09 4.4% 02/28/11 10.6% 08/31/09 2.7%
41 Monroe, MI 12/31/09 2.7% 02/28/11 7.6% 10/31/09 2.5%
42 Muskegon, MI 11/30/09 0.2% 01/31/11 6.1% 12/31/10 1.6%
43 Duluth, MN 05/31/11 2.9% 03/31/11 4.6% 09/30/09 0.6%
44 Minneapolis, MN 03/31/09 1.8% 02/28/11 2.5% 09/30/09 1.5%
45 Rochester, MN 03/31/09 0.7% 02/28/11 2.4% 12/31/10 1.5%
46 Columbia, MO 11/30/08 1.7% 02/28/11 1.5% 08/31/09 3.6%
47 Jefferson City, MO 08/31/10 1.0% 03/31/11 3.9% 02/28/10 2.1%
48 Joplin, MO 02/28/11 5.0% 02/28/11 15.4% 08/31/09 1.2%
49 Kansas City, MO 03/31/09 3.2% 02/28/11 5.2% 06/30/11 1.2%
50 Hattiesburg, MS 01/31/11 2.2% 03/31/11 4.1% 04/30/11 3.6%
51 Fayetteville, NC 12/31/08 2.1% 01/31/10 0.3% 10/31/10 3.2%
52 Winston-Salem, NC 03/31/09 1.9% 11/30/10 0.1% 01/31/11 2.4%
53 Bismarck, ND 03/31/09 15.3% 02/28/10 8.8% 12/31/07 8.8%
54 Fargo, ND 04/30/09 4.9% 02/28/11 3.0% 07/31/09 4.2%
55 Grand Forks, ND 04/30/09 3.0% 12/31/10 7.7% 09/30/10 4.2%
56 Lincoln, NE 01/31/09 1.6% 01/31/11 4.2% 07/31/10 3.2%
57 Omaha, NE 07/31/10 4.5% 03/31/11 2.7% 02/28/10 2.6%
58 Manchester, NH 02/28/11 2.1% 02/28/11 0.5% 01/31/10 1.8%
59 Ocean City, NJ 03/31/09 1.0% 03/31/11 6.3% 05/31/11 5.7%
60 Syracuse, NY 03/31/11 2.9% 03/31/11 10.2% 08/31/10 1.5%
61 Cincinnati, OH 01/31/09 0.2% 02/28/11 2.1% 12/31/10 1.6%
62 Springfield, OH 01/31/11 13.4% 03/31/11 2.5% 01/31/10 3.5%
63 Toledo, OH 05/31/09 1.4% 01/31/11 0.6% 06/30/09 3.4%
64 Youngstown, OH 06/30/11 5.2% 02/28/11 3.9% 06/30/09 4.0%
65 Oklahoma City, OK 05/31/09 0.6% 02/28/11 1.0% 01/31/10 4.0%
66 Tulsa, OK 10/31/10 0.8% 02/28/11 4.4% 02/28/10 3.1%
67 Corvallis, OR 04/30/11 5.7% 02/28/11 4.3% 07/31/09 4.9%
68 Portland, OR 03/31/09 2.6% 03/31/11 3.7% 11/30/09 2.0%
69 Erie, PA 03/31/11 4.6% 02/28/11 3.1% 02/28/10 3.9%
70 Philadelphia, PA 03/31/09 0.7% 02/28/11 2.9% 02/28/10 0.5%
71 Pittsburgh, PA 02/28/09 1.6% 01/31/10 6.5% 02/28/10 4.1%
72 Williamsport, PA 03/31/11 46.3% 02/28/10 8.5% 12/31/09 3.9%
73 Chattanooga, TN 05/31/11 2.6% 02/28/11 4.0% 08/31/09 3.2%
74 Clarksville, TN 01/31/09 2.7% 02/28/11 1.3% 08/31/09 5.1%
75 Kingsport, TN 02/28/11 0.4% 01/31/11 1.6% 02/28/10 2.8%
76 Memphis, TN 04/30/09 2.8% 03/31/11 1.1% 09/30/10 3.1%
77 Nashville, TN 03/31/09 1.6% 02/28/11 1.4% 09/30/09 3.7%
78 Amarillo, TX 10/31/08 1.7% 01/31/10 3.2% 04/30/10 4.6%
79 College Station, TX 10/31/10 5.5% 02/28/11 10.2% 12/31/07 3.6%
80 Corpus Christi, TX 01/31/11 5.1% 12/31/10 4.3% 11/30/09 6.0%
81 Dallas, TX 05/31/09 0.9% 02/28/11 0.5% 12/31/09 3.6%
82 Laredo, TX 12/31/08 1.3% 01/31/10 2.9% 09/30/09 7.1%
83 Longview, TX 04/30/09 3.2% 03/31/11 5.9% 10/31/09 7.9%
84 McAllen, TX 01/31/09 0.4% 11/30/10 1.9% 12/31/07 5.2%
85 Midland, TX 04/30/09 3.6% 01/31/10 8.7% 08/31/09 10.0%
86 Odessa, TX 02/28/09 24.5% 11/30/10 8.9% 08/31/09 9.0%
87 Tyler, TX 03/31/09 0.4% 12/31/10 0.8% 07/31/10 5.3%
88 Victoria, TX 09/30/10 4.2% 02/28/11 6.2% 11/30/09 4.8%
89 Provo, UT 02/28/09 2.7% 03/31/11 1.1% 12/31/09 4.6%
90 Salt Lake City, UT 03/31/09 2.3% 03/31/11 0.4% 02/28/10 3.6%
91 Danville, VA 03/31/09 1.8% 11/30/10 11.4% 11/30/09 2.9%
92 Winchester, VA 04/30/11 7.9% 10/31/10 8.4% 08/31/09 5.4%
93 Burlington, VT 03/31/11 6.1% 01/31/10 1.3% 09/30/09 4.5%
94 Bellingham, WA 04/30/11 2.7% 03/31/11 0.2% 06/30/11 0.4%
95 Kennewick, WA 03/31/09 4.2% 03/31/11 0.3% 12/31/07 4.4%
96 Madison, WI 01/31/09 1.3% 02/28/11 0.8% 08/31/09 2.1%
97 Casper, WY 11/30/10 7.0% 01/31/10 3.2% 12/31/09 8.5%
98 Cheyenne, WY 12/31/08 6.0% 12/31/10 3.0% 01/31/10 2.8%

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Homeowners Continue Shift Away from Cash-Out Refinancing

Homeowners who refinanced their homes during the fourth
quarter of 2011
either refinanced for about the same amount or actually brought
cash to the table according Freddie Mac. 
Fewer than 15 percent of those who refinanced during the quarter
increased their loan amount by 5 percent or more.  This is the lowest percentage of “cash-out”
borrowers in the 26 years that Freddie has been tracking the statistics.  During those 26 years covering 1985 to 2010
the average percentage of cash-out borrowers was 46 percent.

Thirty-seven percent of refinancing homeowners took out new
loans of approximately the same size as the old loan but nearly half (49
percent) actually brought cash to the table, reducing the amount of the new
loan to a median ratio of .74 of the old loan. 
The percentage of “cash-in” borrowers is also a 26-year record.

The fourth quarter figures are a stark contrast to the
pattern of refinancing during the last years of the housing boom.   During
eight consecutive quarters (Q4 of 2005 to Q3 of 2007) cash-out loans exceeded
80 percent of all refinancing and in none of those quarters did more than 8
percent of homeowners reduce the size of their mortgages when refinancing.

Borrowers who refinanced achieved a new interest rate about
1.4 percentage points lower than their old mortgage, a 26 percent improvement.  These borrowers will save a median of $2,700
during the first year if they have a $200,000 loan.

The 15 percent who did cash out took an estimated $5.5
billion in net equity out of their homes, representing 3.0 percent of the total
refinanced.  This was down from $5.6
billion and 3.7 percent in the third quarter. 
Adjusted for inflation this was the lowest level since the third quarter
of 1995.  During the peak period for
cash-out refinancing, the second quarter of 2006, homeowners cashed out $83.7
billion through refinancing, 31.1 percent of the total value of all transactions.   

Freddie Mac said that the mortgages refinanced had been in
place for a median of four years and the underlying collateral had decreased in
value by a median of 4 percent during that time.  The Freddie Mac House Price Index shows about
a 23 percent decline in its U.S. series during that four year period.  Thus, Freddie Mac says, “Borrowers who refinanced in
the fourth quarter owned homes that had held their value better than the
average home, or may reflect value-enhancing improvements that owners had made
to their homes during the intervening years.” 
This statement does not seem to recognize the possibility these
borrowers had been able to refinance solely because their homes had held value
and thus self-selected their loans for analysis.   

…(read more)

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The Latest on Mortgage Rates: Still Low

By Mia Lamar

Average mortgage rates in the U.S. dropped to new record lows over the past week after data on the nation’s economic growth fell short of market forecasts, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates.

A report from the Commerce Department last week showed U.S. gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced—grew at an annual rate of 2.8% in the October-to-December period. The data showed the U.S. economy expanded at the fastest pace since the second quarter of 2010, yet fell short of the expected 3% rate.

For the week ended Thursday, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.87%, down from 3.98% the previous week and 4.81% a year ago. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.14%, down from 3.24% last week and 4.08% a year earlier.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARM, averaged 2.8%, below the 2.85% rate averaged last week and 3.69% a year ago. One-year Treasury-indexed ARM rates averaged 2.76%, down from 2.74% and 3.26%, respectively.

To obtain the rates, 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages required an average 0.8 percentage point payment. Five-year and one-year adjustable rate mortgages required an average 0.7 percentage point and 0.6 percentage point payment, respectively. A point is 1% of the mortgage amount, charged as prepaid interest.

Despite the low mortgage rates, housing markets across the country continue to struggle. CoreLogic reported Thursday that U.S. home prices, including distressed sales, fell 4.7% in December compared with December 2010, the fifth consecutive year of price drops. Excluding distressed sales, CoreLogic’s home-price index fell .9% in December, which shows how much foreclosures and short sales are weighing down prices in some markets.

Write to Mia Lamar at mia.lamar@dowjones.com

FHFA Answers Conflict of Interest Charges against Freddie Mac

The
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a statement late Monday refuting a
story
from ProPublic and NPR
that a complicated investment strategy utilized by Freddie Mac had influenced
it to discourage refinancing of some of its mortgages.  FHFA confirmed that the investments using
Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs) exist but said they did not impact
refinancing decisions and that their use has ended. (the NPR Story)

Freddie Mac’s charter calls for
it to make home loans more accessible, both to purchase and refinance their
homes but the ProPublica story, written by Jesse
Eisinger (ProPublica) and Chris Arnold (NPR) charged that the CMO trades “give Freddie a powerful incentive to do
the opposite
, highlighting a conflict of interest at the heart of the company.
In addition to being an instrument of government policy dedicated to making
home loans more accessible, Freddie also has giant investment portfolios and
could lose substantial amounts of money if too many borrowers refinance.”

Here,
in a nutshell, is what the story (we are quoting from an “updated” version)
says Freddie has been doing.  

Freddie
creates a security (MBS) backed by mortgages it guarantees which was divided
into two parts.  The larger portion, backed
by principal, was fairly low risk, paid a low return and was sold to investors.  The smaller portion, backed by interest
payments on the mortgages, was riskier, and paid a higher return determined by
the interest rates on the underlying loans. 
This portion, called an inverse floater, was retained by Freddie Mac.

In
2010 and 2011 Freddie Mac’s purchase (retention) of these inverse floaters rose
dramatically, from a total of 12 purchased in 2008 and 2009 to 29.  Most of the mortgages backing these floaters had
interest rates of 6.5 to 7 percent.

In
structuring these transactions, Freddie Mac sells off most of the value of the
MBS but does not reduce its risk because it still guarantees the underlying
mortgages and must pay the entire value in the case of default.  The floaters, stripped of the real value of
the underlying principal, are also now harder and possibly more expensive to
sell, and as Freddie gets paid the difference between the interest rates on the
loans and the current interest rate, if rates rise, the value of the floaters
falls. 

While
Freddie, under its agreement with the Treasury Department, has reduced the size
of its portfolio by 6 percent between 2010 and 2011, “that $43 billion drop in
the portfolio overstates the risk reduction because the company retained risk
through the inverse floaters
.”

Since
the real value of the floater is the high rate of interest being paid by the
mortgagee, if large numbers pay off their loans the floater loses value.  Thus, the article charges, Freddie has tried
to deter prospective refinancers by tightening its underwriting guidelines and
raising prices.  It cites, as its sole
example of tightened standards that in October 2010 the company changed a rule
that had prohibited financing for persons who had engaged in some short sales
to prohibiting financing for persons who had engaged in any short sale, but it
also quotes critics who charge that the Home Affordable Refinance Program
(HARP) could be reaching “millions more people if Fannie (Mae) and Freddie
implemented the program more effectively.”

It
has discouraged refinancing by raising fees. 
During Thanksgiving week in 2010, the article contends, Freddie quietly
announced it was raising post-settlement delivery fees.  In November 2011, FHFA announced that the
GSEs were eliminating or reducing some fees but the Federal Reserve said that “more
might be done.”

If
Freddie Mac has limited refinancing, the article says, it also affected the whole
economy which might benefit from billions of dollars of discretionary income generated
through lower mortgage payments.  Refinancing
might also reduce foreclosures and limit the losses the GSEs suffer through defaults
of their guaranteed loans.

The
authors say there is no evidence that decisions about trades and decisions
about refinancing were coordinated.  “The
company is a key gatekeeper for home loans but says its traders are “walled
off” from the officials who have restricted homeowners from taking advantage of
historically low interest rates by imposing higher fees and new rules.”

ProPublica/NPR says that the
floater trades “raise questions about the FHFA’s oversight of Fannie and
Freddie” as a regulator but, as conservator it also acts as the board of
directors and shareholders and has emphasized that its main goal is to limit
taxpayer losses.  This has frustrated the
administration because FHFA has made preserving the companies’ assets a
priority over helping homeowners.  The
President tried to replace acting director Edward J. DeMarco, but Congress
refused to confirm his nominee. 

The
authors conclude by saying that FHFA knew about the inverse floater trades
before they were approached about the story but officials declined to comment on whether the
FHFA knew about them as Freddie was conducting them or whether the FHFA had
explicitly approved them.”

The
FHFA statement
said that Freddie Mac has historically used CMOs as a tool to
manage its retained portfolio and to address issues associated with security
performance.  The inverse floaters were
used to finance mortgages sold to Freddie through its cash window and to sell
mortgages out of its portfolio “in response to market demand and to shrink its
own portfolio.”  The inverse floater
essentially leaves Freddie with a portion of the risk exposure it would have
had if it had kept the entire mortgage on its balance sheet and also results in
a more complex financing structure that requires specialized risk management
processes.  (Full FHFA Statement)

The
agency said that for several reasons Freddie’s retention of inverse floaters ended in
2011 and only $5 billion is held in the company’s $650 billion retained
portfolio.  Later that year FHFA staff
identified concerns about the floaters and the company agreed that these
transactions would not resume pending completing of the agency examination.

These
investments FHFA said did not have any impact on the recent changes to
HARP.  In evaluating changes, FHFA
specifically directed both Freddie and Fannie not to consider changes in their
own investment income in the HARP evaluation process and now that the HARP
changes are in place the refinance process is between borrowers and loan
originators and servicers, not Freddie Mac.

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