The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3221, the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. The bill includes a temporary, $7,500 first-time home buyer tax credit which many believe will jump start the housing market and bring buyers off the sidelines. President Bush has since signed this bill into law.
Kieran P. Quinn, CMB, Chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) hailed the House of Representatives passage of the omnibus housing bill. The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 272-152, will now go to the Senate – where leaders have indicated it will pass – and then to President Bush, who has stated he will sign it.
Among the provisions in the bill:
FHA Modernization: Authorizes a $25 million appropriation to improve technology, processes, program performance, eliminate fraud and provide appropriate staffing. Effective January 1, 2009, it also increases the FHA loan limit to the lesser of 115 percent of the local median home price or $625,500 with a floor for lower priced markets of $271,000, establishes a 12-month stay on FHA’s proposal for risk-based premiums, sets the down payment requirement at 3.5 percent and prohibits seller-funded down payment assistance (both direct or through a third party). In my opinion: This means today’s buyer will have to have his “skin in the game” and not rely solely on outside sources for his/her downpayment. This is how purchasing a home used to be and should always be as buyers who actually have their hard-earned money invested in their home will be more likely to pay their mortages and stay in their home than just walk away and leave the property to foreclosure.
GSE Oversight Reform: Creates a new regulator (five-year term, appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate) with oversight authority similar bank regulators, establishes a new affordable housing fund and capital magnet fund to be funded by a 4.2 basis point fee on all new loans, significantly changes the affordable housing goals and raises the conforming loan limit to the higher of $417,000 or 115 percent of the local median home price, not to exceed $625,500 (the stimulus limits remain in effect until January 1, 2009). In my opinion: This will allow buyers in very expensive markets to find competitive loans as many Jumbo Loans (non-conforming loans over the loan limit) come with higher interest rates and are an unfair punishment for purchasing in a high dollar area).
FHA Rescue: Creates a voluntary program for lenders to write down the loan balance in exchange for an FHA guaranteed loan not to exceed 90 percent of the newly appraised value of home. The lender would pay a 3 percent FHA loan origination fee. To qualify, the borrower must have a debt-to-income ratio above 31 percent on the original loan. The program is capped at $300 billion. In my opinion: This will help keep many homes off the foreclosure chopping block and will have a positive affect on surrounding properties and homeowners.
Tax Incentives: Creates a $7,500 refundable tax credit for first-time home buyers, expands the volume cap for the low income housing tax credit, allows for tax-exempt treatment of bonds guaranteed by the Federal Home Loan Banks and exempts the low income housing tax credit from the alternative minimum tax. In my opinion: This is a fairly low cost incentive to help first time home owners enter the market.
Low Income and Affordable Housing: Encourages the development of low-income and affordable housing by harmonizing multi-family FHA mortgage insurance programs with the low income housing tax credit. Allowing these two programs to work together will result in more effective uses of both programs. In my opinion: Again, another low cost incentive for affordable housing.
GSE Backstop: Authorizes the Treasury Secretary to temporarily increase the GSEs’ line of credit and to, if necessary, buy equity in the GSEs in order to provide confidence to credit markets. Also provides a role for Treasury and the Federal Reserve in GSE oversight to ensure safety and soundness. In my opinion: Yes, another bail out but one that is necessary to our Nation – much like the airline industry bailout of years’ past.
TILA Reform: Requires TILA disclosures to be delivered seven days prior to loan origination, requires that disclosures include examples of how payments would change based on rate adjustments in addition to disclosing the maximum possible payment under the loan terms and mandates that the consumer receive early disclosures before paying anything more than a nominal fee that covers the cost of a credit report. In my opinion: Disclosures that should have already been required so that the lending vehicle is transparent to the prospective buyer. I have seen too many buyers that were blindsided by the costs of rising interest rates during the transaction as well as dealing with punitive pre-payment penalties after the sale. Education is never a bad thing and this mandated disclosure will be helpful to the general public.
Empowering States: Raises the cap by $11 billion on tax-free bonds that state housing finance agencies may use to help at-risk homeowners by refinancing troubled loans and appropriates $4 billion for states to purchase and renovate abandoned and foreclosed properties. In my opinion: Again, a good way to help keep homes out of foreclosure.
Licensing: Encourages state officials to create a national licensing system for residential loan originators, allows HUD to create a licensing system for those states that fail to enact their own, establishes minimum qualifications for all loan originators and requires federal regulators to create a registry for banks and thrift employees who originate loans. In my opinion: loan originators are poorly regulated and are certainly part of the problem that should be addressed. By mandating a minium qualification standard and licensing, perhaps this can be resolved. I personally am not allowed by my brokerage firm to originate loans for my clients. This could certainly be a source of conflict of interest and we choose to eliminate that from the transaction. I would suggest that buyers may wish to deal with a loan originator who does this full time rather than someone trying to handle all aspects of the real estate transaction.
All in all, this bill has good, strong point that should positively affect the current housing market and the economy as a whole. While I agree that no private industry should be “bailed out” when their bad practices have lead to ruin, this is an issue that goes beyond private industry. The secondary mortgage market is necessary to us all and we need to make sure we do everything we can to keep it healthy.