Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 24-11-2009
Anyone who takes the time to analyze how the mortgage crisis started quickly realizes it was the result of the Fed printing money (the flood) and the congress passing affordable housing regulation to promote home ownership (steering the flood into real estate). What we ended up getting was an overvalued real estate market and a bubble that eventually popped and caused supposedly the worst crisis since the Great Depression. I would argue Obama is making this the worst crisis since the Great Depression, but none the less. So what does the government do? More of the same with their home buyer tax credits and cheap printed money from the Fed.
The problem is that the FHA insures mortgages of homes below certain price levels with such a low down payment that it can be funded solely by the refundable tax credit. And, as we’ve seen in the recent housing crisis, buyers with no skin in the game are more likely than others to default on their mortgages when the value of their home falls below their mortgage balance.
Here’s how the credit allows buyers to avoid putting their own money at risk. Suppose a couple making $60,000 annually buys a home worth $200,000. They can get an FHA-insured loan if they put down 3.5% of the purchase price, about $7,000. The couple will also need to come up with another $1,000 in closing costs, for a total of $8,000. The couple can either dip into savings or borrow that money from relatives or somewhere else on a temporary basis.
After closing, the couple can quickly obtain the $8,000 refundable tax credit to pay off their temporary loan (or replenish their savings). In effect, they will have bought a home without putting any of their own money at risk. Owners who don’t sink their own money into a house are much more likely to default on the mortgage.
The FHA already is facing a rising number of serious problems on its insured mortgages. Last week the agency reported that its cash reserves dropped to 0.53% of the $685 billion of total loans it insurers. This is well below the 2% federal law requires the FHA to have in reserves.
I won’t even get into the moral issue of what the government is doing by tricking people into buying homes they otherwise would not and forcing others to give up their earnings at a point of a gun so they can give it to home buyers. If the government would stay out of real estate, it would stabilize itself, and people would know the real value of their properties. Instead they are doing more of the same and inflating the value of real estate, creating more demand than there otherwise would be, and ultimately setting up another bubble in real estate. More than likely it won’t be as big of a bubble compared to the one we are recovering from, but none the less, it’s a bubble. Those who are buying under these programs are going to be in for a shock when the programs go away and values eventually move towards their market value. Then again, the Fed printed so much money that inflation may just increase the value of the homes. The problem is the rest of the economy will suffer.
In a seperate article the Journal talks about the disaster the rest of the housing market is in, so I’m sure they’ll keep tinkering.
The proportion of U.S. homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the properties are worth has swelled to about 23%, threatening prospects for a sustained housing recovery.
Nearly 10.7 million households had negative equity in their homes in the third quarter, according to First American CoreLogic, a real-estate information company based in Santa Ana, Calif.
These so-called underwater mortgages pose a roadblock to a housing recovery because the properties are more likely to fall into bank foreclosure and get dumped into an already saturated market.