Tuesday, September 9, 2008

News of Government Takeovers: Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae

The Jury is out on whether long term government involvement of these formerly private institutions will benefit our home buyers. So far the market has reacted possitively.

Our hope is that the resulting lower interest rates (at least in the short term) may make this an exceptionally good time to invest again in real estate. Could we be facing a unique market where the bottom (assuming we are near the bottom) could actually coexist with reasonable interest rates?

From AP:
Investors, Industry Pleased With Govt. Takeover

Here is the California Association of Realtor's official (cautiously optimistic) stance:

In light of the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury's action, C.A.R. today reaffirmed its support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their countercyclical roles.

While the short-term impact of the Treasury's actions over the weekend served to calm the markets and restore confidence, in the longer term these entities need to be able to fulfill their historic mission. A privatized Fannie and Freddie will short-circuit the countercyclical role the GSEs have played during precarious times in real estate markets.

Without an institutionalized mortgage-backed securities market, mortgage capital eventually will be less predictable and more expensive, and adjustable-rate mortgages could become the standard loan for home buyers, as could higher down payment requirements. The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage as we know it will no longer be readily available for most home buyers and may effectively disappear. The result could be a dramatic decline in homeownership rates in California and across the nation.

C.A.R. is concerned that the Treasury, and Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's new CEOs, will overreact and change the mission and role of the GSEs. Wall Street and investors are understandably reluctant to buy mortgage backed securities (MBS) that are not either originated from or guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie.

The GSEs hold or have securitized nearly half -- roughly $5 trillion -- of all mortgages in the U.S., and in the current environment with private lender constraints, they account for the vast majority of all new mortgages in California.

We have just recently begun to see an increase in home sales, currently at nearly 490,000 units on an annualized basis, up from 284,000 in the fourth quarter of last year. The most significant, reliable source of home loans in California today are financed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. California's and the nation's housing markets simply cannot withstand the financial rug being pulled out from beneath them. Additionally, the repercussions this could have on the already weak economy could be devastating.

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