The increase in the number of cashout refis has led to some concerns about the implications for the quality of household balance sheets, similar to what occurred in the run-up to the Global Financial Crisis. At that time, many homeowners were tempted to use their houses as a “piggy bank” as the national savings rate hit all-time lows. In the runup to the Global Financial Crisis, the national savings rate hit a sixty-year low of 2.2% while over the 2016-2019 period the rate averaged a much healthier 7.6%.
It is useful to scale the magnitude of assets being cashed out and Freddie Mac releases a very useful file documenting this quarterly for their book of business back to 1994. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the amount cashed out reached $48.4 billion, about 58% of the $84.0 billion peak attained in the second quarter of 2006. As a share of household net worth, the most recent data point is 3.7%, well below the peak of 12.7% reached in Q2 2006.
It’s useful along these lines to ask about the credit profile of cashouts compared to other refinancings. Freddie Mac didn’t report cashout refi separately until 2008 Q3, but the following useful picture can be obtained.
In general, lenders tend to “lean against the wind” by loosening credit conditions when demand for credit declines, and vice versa. Interestingly, it appears that the share of noncashout loans follows a pattern in which the share rises when credit in general is tightened. At the present time, the average FICO score in March for noncashouts was a tight 764, vs 753 for cashouts. It is difficult to pin the rise in equity cashouts in the current cycle to loosening credit conditions.
Of course, the proof is in performance, and now that we have loan-level DQs for the GSE’s beginning last month, we can look at this broken down by loan purpose for the Freddie Mac book:
The performance of cashouts is mildly worse than that for noncashouts, but more in line with purchase mortgages. These statistics will bear watching in future months, particularly as forbearance programs begin to expire towards the end of the year.
We have commented previously about housing and the “K-shaped Recovery” in which home prices are booming but rent increases are decelerating. This dichotomy is highly unusual but reflects the flight of households out of dense urban environments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With rents decelerating, it is not surprising that starts of new multifamily units have been in a trend decline over the past year.
On Tuesday February 23, FHFA released its monthly purchase-only HPI for December, showing a 1.1% rise from the prior month, and a striking 11.1% increase from December 2019, the record-high annual growth rate reported since this data was first released in the early 1990s.
Assigning letters to economic recoveries (“V”, “L”, “U” etc.) has become a standard part of the economist’s toolkit for expressing a view on the nature of a particular forecast. The Covid-19 crisis has added a new letter to the lexicon, “K”. In a “K-shaped” recovery, some segment of the population experiences relatively strong growth, while others are left behind. Since housing tenure is an essential determinant of the distribution of household wealth, it is not surprising that we can clearly see this shape in the relative trends in house prices versus rents:
Our last post demonstrated that Fannie Mae performance at the pool level has been lagging that of Freddie Mac since the start of the pandemic. The question remains as to why. The challenge in answering this question is that unlike the case for Ginnie Mae programs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have not been releasing performance data on the loan level. Those who subscribe to our monthly risk reports know that we have been tracking relative underwriting standards between the two mortgage giants for some time. We do this not by looking at the average levels of underwriting characteristics, but rather at looking at the tails of these characteristics. Our experience is that this is a far superior method for this as distinct policy about risk come in much clearer this way. We focus on the share of GSE deliveries with LTV>95, DTI>45, and credit score<680.
Data released last evening showed that total delinquencies for loans in Fannie Mae pools were unchanged in February at 3.6% in February, the first month that the rate did not decline since the Covid-19 Pandemic struck last spring. Notably, the same rate for Freddie Mac pools declined by 0.2% to 2.9%, the low reached since April 2020.
In a recent post, we discussed the application of the FHA Neighborhood Watch dataset to understanding the market landscape for this program. Peering a bit deeper, more insights can be obtained. We just updated this dataset through December so it is an opportune time to take a look at FHA loan performance.
First, the share of FHA loans in pools continued to decline at the end of the year:
The loans in pools fell by about 60,000 in December while the total fell by 40,000 implying that perhaps 20,000 loans were purchased out of pools, and presumably modified as foreclosures are currently forbidden. Interestingly, the number of loans in pools new issuance with mods rose for the first time since July:
It shows even though most of the loans are expected to be cured by partial claims, modification remains a tool to work out delinquent loans. We will have separate pieces focusing on partial claims in future posts.
Now what about delinquencies? What is the delinquency rate of loans in the FHA program?
As servicers may buy serious delinquent loans out of pools, and banks tend to hold conventional loans not FHA loans on their balance sheet, the overall FHA delinquency rate reported by FHA Neighborhood Watch data is generally higher than that for loans in pools. When COVID-19 first struck last spring, the 30-day delinquency rate spiked, narrowing the gap with the total figure, but many of these cured as labor markets recovered. More recently, lenders have picked up the pace of purchasing delinquent loans out of pools, as they have the financial incentive to modify the loans to allow the borrowers to become current and then resecuritize them. A key question for 2021 is when forbearance programs expire, how many borrowers will be able to work with lenders to keep their homes, and how many will lose them? Stay tuned.
 “In pools” means the loans were securitized by Ginnie Mae issuers
 The delinquency rates are calculated using the delinquent loan counts divided by total loan counts
We’ve written previously that the multifamily market will be of growing interest during the course of 2021. During the Global Financial Crisis, the single-family market was ravaged by foreclosures resulting from the popping of the housing bubble. The large number of households losing their homes became renters to a large degree. This time is different. Renters are fleeing congested urban areas and are buying homes in areas with more space, serving to push up house prices while rents are under downward pressure. According to the Elliman Report, the rental vacancy rate for Manhattan in November 2020 was 6.1%, compared to 1.8% a year earlier. This figure will of course vary considerably from place to place. The potential for more vacancies remains once the various Federal and Local Covid-19 bans on evictions are allowed to expire. According to Trepp, the national 30+ day delinquency rate for multifamily loans in December 2020 was 2.75%, up modestly from 2.00% a year earlier.
The role of the Agencies in the multifamily debt market is significant, but less than the overwhelming presence seen in the single-family market. Data disclosed by the agencies provides a wealth of information about the rental market but did not receive widespread attention until recently. In this post, we discuss trends in multifamily loan maturity schedule and prepayment penalty schedule. This data is of interest because unlike the single-family market, there are fewer apartment loans, but they are generally quite large. Maturities can clump, leading to periods of time when capital demands can push borrowing costs higher. On the other hand, opportunities for lenders arise when loans mature or exit the prepayment penalty window.