It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane – Wait… It’s A Jackhammer…

You know, I kinda figured I wasn’t the only guy who was peeved at Hank Paulson’s sudden decision to re-allocate the Troubled Asset Relief Program (lovingly known as the 700 billion dollar TARP).  This week, Congress ran circles around Hank and Ben Bernanke and let the flaming arrows fly.  As we expect, the fiery rhetoric accomplished dang-near nothing but satisfying the collective minds of the constituents that our loving Congressmen and Congresswomen represent.

Chalk another one up to big talk and no action.  Go Washington!

But all of that got swept under the rug as our latest end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it crisis finally hit home: the union-belabored, fundamentally flawed US auto industry.  CEOs of the Big 3 (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors) came a-jingling their tin cups looking for a modest handout of 25 billion dollars in taxpayer money to bail them out.  Congress had a field day pointing out that these CEOs arrived on private jets and were begging for working capital.  Rather hypocritical of them.

And it looks like these giants are going to get some sort of help.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is re­quiring a written plan showing how the 25 billion will be used to make these healthier, more viable businesses before they disperse one red cent.  My guess is that the automakers could spit on a piece of paper, hand it in, and get the money.  Too many jobs are at stake for this to be the ‘line in the sand’ that our government will draw.

And the future tax hikes keep racking up.  My grandkids are going to hate us.

All of this news caused an 872 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in two days.  Yet another stock market crash causes investors to flee for safer investments, like bonds and mortgage-backed securities.  Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage securities aren’t governmentally guaranteed (yet), investors are a tad more cautious about that investment class.  So, while we have seen Treasury bond rates come screaming down (meaning a ton of people are buying them), we have­n’t seen as pronounced a move in mortgage bond trading.

So, the translation of all that is as long as the stock market is suffering huge losses, mortgage rates will stay attractive. 

You guys know me by now.  Well, some of you do.  I don’t constantly hammer you with sales-speak to get you to buy when the buying isn’t good.  I try to provide the facts.

Well, the fact is we are staring at the perfect storm for real estate buying.  Rates are being held down by one financial crisis after another.  Inflation has turned temporarily negative.  Home sellers are entering the real estate slow season AND are about to put a whole lot of debt on charge cards that will come home to roost in January AND are psychologically wanting to have a clean start to 2009.  All of this implies that sellers can be negotiated down very readily over the course of the next 2 months.  Add on top of that a $7500 dollar for dollar tax credit for 1st time homebuyers, and you’ve got a very good situation. 

Are we at rock bottom?  God only knows.  But there is a fine line between timing the markets and just being greedy.  The opportunity floating around right this very second is enormous.  Jump on it.

4 Comments

  1. Despite what the Fed hopes to accomplish, I really don’t believe the banks will start lending again until home mortgage lending standards revert back to traditional lending standards:

    1) require min. 20% down payment received from borrower’s own savings (not free government downpayment assistance handouts)
    2) require min. 780 FICO score
    3) require borrowers to have no former foreclosures, shortsales, or bankruptcies
    4) require minimum of 2 years steady employment
    5) require total monthly mortgage payment (P.I.T.I. and association dues) does not exceed 30% of borrower’s current monthly income.

    This was the old school way of mortgage lending crappy FHA, VA, sub-prime, and alt-I lending practices were created to allow more minorities and low wage earners to get mortgages and purchases houses they could never possibly afford to pay for.

  2. I tend to agree – except for #3: With such a huge proportion the country having suffered either a foreclosure, bankruptcy or short sale, the banks (and the rest of society) are going to have to review how they regard these situations. Most of us have already come around to the view that these folk will require individial review in order to determine the extent to which they were culpable.

  3. If I were the Fed, I’d require that banks and Savings & Loans retain 100% of the mortgages they originate. I think that banks would be a lot more diligent about ensuring borrowers would be able to repay the loans if the banks were forced to keep the loans on their books for the life of the loan.

    If I were a banker, I certainly would never lend a penny to anyone who failed to honor their commitment to repay a loan in full. Sure, I believe some borrowers didn’t fully understand the terms of their mortgages…but they still signed it and need to suck it up and make good on their promise. Their ignorance is not an acceptable excuse to abandon their obligation.

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