Mortgage oversight agency (FHFA) could stall county greening efforts

by Dan Krell © 2010

Last week, a federal oversight agency raised concerns about a green retrofitting loan program in an effort to protect consumers and the integrity of lending practices. Normally, this would not seem unusual; however on June 6th the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a statement that affects many Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs across the country, and may affect Montgomery County’s Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) even before it officially kicks off later this year.

As part of a national initiative to reduce energy consumptions and curb greenhouse gases, PACE ( programs are intended to make green retrofitting affordable for home owners. The program generates funds for the retrofitting through “tax lien oriented financing” by selling “PACE bonds,” and is repaid by the home owner through annual tax assessments.

Enacted through Council Bill 6-09 (April 2009), HELP is Montgomery County’s local green retrofitting loan program, which is part of a first wave of PACE programs implemented throughout the country. Although HELP is awaiting a green light from the County Council to get underway, the county’s Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to manage the program. HELP’s financing arrangement is anticipated to allow a home owner to repay the “loan” over fifteen years through their property tax bill.

As the oversight agency for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks, FHFA’s ( statement cited concerns about “certain energy retrofit lending programs,” specifically referring to local tax assessment loan programs by PACE. “Safety and soundness” concerns were cited because the PACE tax liens could interfere and disrupt a “fragile housing finance market” due to the “absence of robust underwriting standards to protect homeowners and the lack of energy retrofit standards to assist homeowners, appraisers, inspectors and lenders [to] determine the value of retrofit products…”

Although FHFA has collaborated with government agencies, state and local officials to work through their concerns, the issue appears to be unresolved. FHFA’s statement asserts that the tax assessment created through a PACE loan is unlike the typical tax assessment; such that the term and amount of a PACE related tax assessment exceeds a typical local assessment and do not have the usual community benefit that is associated with local tax initiatives. Additionally, the concern over such modifications would “present significant risk to lenders and secondary market entities, may alter valuations for mortgage-backed securities and are not essential for successful programs to spur energy conservation.”

Notwithstanding some critics concerns over the obsolescence of a green retrofit before such a loan is repaid, additional concerns raised by FHFA include: the shift of traditional lending priorities (PACE investors have minimal risk due to the first lien position); PACE program’s collateral based underwriting does not take into account the home owner’s ability to pay; the lack of lending disclosures (such as required by the Truth-in-Lending Act and other consumer protections); “and uncertainty as to whether the home improvements actually produce meaningful reductions in energy consumption.”

It remains to be seen whether HELP will be affected by FHFA’s new guidelines to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to deal with PACE loans. However, FHFA stated that the concerns were not raised to undermine programs meant to reduce consumer energy consumption, but rather to encourage the implementation of retrofitting loan programs with “appropriate underwriting guidelines and consumer protection standards.”

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

Fannie Mae in the Rental market?

Although the new “Deed for Lease” program may not be considered nationalized housing, it comes close to the scenario I envisioned back in March:
“Rather than the Government entering the mortgage servicing arena, the ideal nationalized housing program (through Government controlled lenders) would allow struggling home owners to pay what they can afford. In return the home owner would give up some (if not all) of the future equity stake in their home when they eventually sell.”


Yesterday (November 6), Fannie Mae announced the “Deed for Lease Program.” The program is designed for homeowners who are in foreclosure and do not qualify for a mortgage modification. The home owner is supposed to give their home to their lender via a “deed in lieu” (also known as a “friendly foreclosure”) and be allowed to rent back from the lender. Program guidelines and other information can be obtained from Fannie Mae’s news release:

Options to lower mortgage payments

by Dan Krell © 2009

If selling your home is not in your near future, you may be indifferent to real estate market trends. But, would you be interested in lowering your mortgage payment?

Several months ago I told you about the government push to modify and refinance mortgages to assist home owners to keep their homes. The Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable program ( is up and running and gaining momentum!

If you are facing financial challenges and need assistance to lower your mortgage payment, the Home Affordable Modification may be able to help you. To qualify, the mortgage must be on your principle residence, must not exceed $720,750, and must have been received prior to January 1, 2009. Additional requirements include having difficulty in paying the monthly payment due to: having increases in monthly payments, having a reduced income, experiencing hardships that increase your expenses; and/or your mortgage payment exceeds 31% of your gross income.

If you are current on your mortgage but find it difficult to refinance because the mortgage balance exceeds your home’s value, the Making Home Affordable Refinance may be for you. The Making Home Affordable Refinance program allows home owners to refinance mortgages up to 125% of the value of the home. To qualify you must be current on your mortgage, the mortgage must be on a residential building (up to four units) that was bought by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. To find out if your mortgage was sold to either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you can either call your servicer or you can check on your own by going to their corresponding websites ( or

You can determine if you qualify for the Home Affordable programs through completing a brief questionnaire on the Making Home Affordable website ( If you qualify for these programs, you will need to contact your mortgage servicer and request one of the Home Affordable programs (refinance or modification). The servicer will need your income and asset information (hardship information is also required to process the Home Affordable Modification) to assist them in processing your request. The process will be slow, but making frequent calls to follow the progress is necessary to ensure you don’t miss a step.

What if your mortgage balance is less than your home’s value and your credit is excellent? If you haven’t yet taken advantage of recent mortgage interest rate lows, you might consider an automatic rate reduction loan (ARR mortgage). An ARR mortgage is a loan where the rate automatically lowers as mortgage rates fall. ARR mortgage programs have been around for some time, but haven’t received much press lately because mortgage rates have been relatively low.

Although not many lenders offer ARR mortgage programs, ARC Loan ( has been offering “mortgage management” since 1993. According to the ARC Loan website, the program seeks to take advantage of mortgage cycles to assist their clients in saving money and reducing debt. Because everyone’s needs and situations are different, ARC Loan consultants take the time to provide a personalized analysis to determine if you qualify and if an ARC Loan can improve your financial picture.

Many options now exist to lower mortgage payments for home owners in various financial situations. If you qualify, taking advantage of these programs may lower your monthly payments.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 31, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell

FHFA takes Fannie and Freddie: Government begins restructuring troubled mortgage giants

by Dan Krell

If you haven’t yet heard, the newly created Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) wasted little time in pursuing its regulatory authority over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by taking over as conservator. The agency was established as the new regulatory agency for Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) when President Bush signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 on July 30th. The takeover is a coordinated effort between the FHFA, the United States Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

In a statement made on Sunday, FHFA secretary James Lockhart outlined the reasons for the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the goals of the conservatorship. (The Secretary’s statement can be found at: Secretary Lockhart stressed the importance of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s role in the housing industry. However, the FHFA felt it was necessary to take action because of Fannie and Freddie’s ongoing capitalization problems, poor financial performance and deteriorated market conditions.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson also underscored the importance of Fannie and Freddie’s survival (the Secretary’s statement can be seen at Secretary Paulson stated that the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would cause great turmoil in local and global markets. The turmoil would in turn negatively impact everyone personally, reducing savings and restricting credit (all forms of credit would be affected).

Due to the fragility and uncertainty of Fannie and Freddie in recent weeks, Treasury Secretary Paulson stated that the risk of funneling money to these institutions “in their current form” was not in the best interest of the tax payers. As the FHFA takes over operations in Fannie and Freddie, the role of the U.S. Treasury will be to ensure that Fannie and Freddie maintain a positive net worth through preferred stock purchases. By maintaining a positive net worth, Fannie and Freddie dodge the bullet of receivership (which could trigger a global financial meltdown).

The Treasury’s second role will be to purchase mortgage backed securities (MBS) from Fannie and Freddie. Although the MBS purchases will be temporary, it is anticipated that the special MBS purchases will increase mortgage availability and affordability.

Additionally, special credit facilities will be made available to the FHFA entities (which include Fannie Mae and Freddie as well as the twelve Federal Home Loan Banks) to sustain their liquidity. Secretary Lockhart stated that the Federal Home Loan Banks will most likely not use the recently made available facilities as they have “preformed well over the last year.”

The conservatorship is intended to be temporary; there is no timeline for transition. However, as Fannie and Freddie are required to reduce their mortgage portfolios starting in 2010, it is anticipated the new model will allow for a more streamlined and profitable organization at both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Although many agree that the takeover will positively affect interest rates temporarily, modestly lowered interest rates will not be enough to fix the real estate problem. The real story (that will evolve in ensuing months) will be Fannie and Freddie’s encouragement and support of banks to modify delinquent loans rather than foreclosing, which will play a role in the stabilization of home values and ultimately the real estate market.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 8, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.

President Signs Historic Housing Legislation

by Dan Krell

The lack of fanfare over the signing of The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 on July 30th by President Bush was the anticlimax of the long Congressional battle of proposed housing legislation. The long awaited and highly anticipated legislation is historic for its wide reaching changes in the mortgage and housing industries as well as foreclosure assistance.

For the mortgage industry, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 changes how the Government Sponsored Entities (GSE’s), FHA and VA will conduct their mortgage businesses. In addition to the recent loan limit increases ($625,000 for conforming mortgages and $625,000 for FHA loans in high cost areas) becoming permanent for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA, the new law will increase oversight and offer more options and protections to home buyers.

For the GSEs (which include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Federal Home Loan Banks), the new law provides temporary assistance to the financially beleaguered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the United States Treasury in the form of discount loans to help stabilize the mortgage giants. Additionally, a new and “independent” regulator to oversee the GSEs will act like a federal regulator to ensure that the GSEs are financially stable.

The new law includes the FHA Modernization Act of 2008, which gives the venerable government insured mortgage a face lift. There have not been such significant changes to FHA since its inception in 1934. Among the many changes, FHA will have a more streamlined process, increase the down payment to 3.5% of the purchase price, bar down payment assistance programs, and require home ownership counseling for home buyers.

The new law seeks to prevent mortgage fraud by launching efforts to license all mortgage originators. Although many states now require mortgage originators to be licensed, the new law will focus on those originators who are exempt from current laws (which typically include mortgage originators who are employed by federally chartered banks).

New mortgage disclosure requirements expand the Truth In Lending Act (TILA) to require lenders to provide meaningful information to consumers about their loans. The time frame will be three days from application and seven days before settlement. This is meant to allow consumers to compare mortgage rates and terms within a reasonable time frame.

Home buyers who purchase a home between April 9, 2008 and June 30, 2009 will have the opportunity to qualify for a tax credit which is repayable over fifteen years. However, the credit is limited to ten percent (up to $7,500) of the purchase price of a principal residence, and only for first time home buyers who meet income restrictions. Other restrictions apply, so you should consult your accountant for additional information.

For home owners facing foreclosure, the new legislation includes the HOPE for Homeowners Act of 2008. The program will allow the home owner’s present mortgage be refinanced through FHA. However among other qualifications, the program requires the home owner’s present lender to agree to accept losses to 85% of appraised value of home.

To the average person, these sweeping changes may seem dull and unimportant; many remain critical of the new legislation. However, because the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 is so wide reaching, it is truly historic.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 4, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.