Everyone Does Not Qualify for a Loan Mod

Loan modification fever is here. Families all over the U.S. are struggling to make their mortgage payments and many are expressing frustration that their lender won’t modify their loan.  Any of us could try to make a rational argument that a lender is better off modifying a mortgage loan instead of foreclosing but this is a simple answer to a complex problem.  This blog post will help homeowners understand who is not going to get a loan mod.  Hopefully homeowners will be able to then move forward toward other solutions.

Loan modifications are not for people in temporary financial distress. Temporary financial distress is when a homeowner missed a payment for one or two months because of a temporary hardship.  Lenders can and do help these folks with a forbearance and repayment plan where the missed payments are made up over time or tacked on to the end of the mortgage.  This is not a loan modification, it’s a repayment plan. If your financial distress is only TEMPORARY then asking for a full-on loan mod is wasting your time and everyone elses time.  New research out this week from CR shows us that 30% of all delinquent borrowers self-cure without receiving any kind of loan modification. This means lenders who can effectively triage out borrowers likely to self-cure are behaving rationally by setting aside pleas for loan mods.

Long term financial hardship means homeowners need long term financial solutions. A loan modification is only ONE of MANY long term solutions. In order for a homeowner to receive a loan mod, the homeowner must be able to document stable monthly income.  Lenders have to re-underwrite the file to make sure that the loan modification will not result in further loss to the lender.  This takes time. If a homeowner’s monthly income has dropped so low, to the point where they really can’t qualify to repay the modified loan, this loan modification will not be approved nor should it.  (Note: Lender guidelines on qualifications vary and change often, just like the retail side of lending.) This homeowner should consider other options which will be outlined below.  It should be beyond clear by now that lenders are not going to voluntarily start reducing principal balances unless forced by gunpoint.  The government can try to shame them into it but let’s face it: most corporations are shameless and nothing any of us say and do is going to change this.

Long term financial hardship cases do happen. Case in point. I received an email last night from a homeowner who is on permanent disability. Her husband just got laid off.  They are seeking a loan mod.  In no way can they afford the $4500/month payment on their interest only loan so they’d like the lender to lower the payment (lower the interest-only rate, extend the term).  They are $100,000 negative equity.  Sounds rough, doesn’t it?  However, they happen to have $250,00 in the bank.  This is not a case of financial hardship! A lender would be wasting time and money modifying this loan. These homeowners HAVE MONEY in the bank to continue to make their existing payment for many more months.  Besides, looking at the amount of money coming in the door each month, once their money runs out, chance of a re-default is sky high.  The only thing a loan mod does for these homeowners is it keeps them in their home for a little while longer. If the husband can become re-employed at his same rate of pay, maybe the chance of default drops a bit, but  no lender will modify this loan if there’s literally zero money coming in every month.  This lender is making a good business decision to put this file on ice while they continue to pay as agreed each month using their $250K.

I agree with CR: “If it became widely known that lenders routinely reduce the principal balance for delinquent borrowers with negative equity, this would be an incentive for a large number of additional homeowners to stop paying their mortgages.” It would be rational for negative equity homeowners to make the decision to trash their credit score in exchange for a shot at wiping out $50K, $100K+ negative equity if they wanted to keep their home.  We shouldn’t hold our breath for lenders to make principal balance reductions en masse.

I have not worked in loan servicing for many years but when I did, there was a triage system of making sure cases that were going to cost the bank the most money were prioritized over cases that could wait longer.  We already know that loan servicing departments are far understaffed for the tsunami that’s hitting them full on.  If we want banks to beef up staffing and spend money hiring and training more loss mitigation underwriters, the expense for these costs is going to be priced into new mortgage loans made tomorrow and in the future.  Even so, this will take time.  Working in loan servicing is a very high stress job. Imagine what it’s like to work 8 to 5 every day with a 1 hour break from lunch and 2, 15-minute breaks…with the rest of your day spent being yelled at by Realtors asking for their short sales to be approved RIGHT NOW. High stress = high turnover. I could never do that job today because I’d yell back and surely get fired. 

Homeowners with bonafide cases of lender law violations or predatory lending can and should be prioritized in getting help modifying their loans.  These homeowners are better served by hiring competent legal counsel to represent their interests in negotiating fair and just mortgage terms.  But that’s not what’s happening today.

Today, it seems that the masses believe they deserve a loan mod based on whatever is going on in their lives.  Job loss, reduction in hours, on and on….I know I may sound heartless here but lenders need to make sure you are able to repay a modified loan and that you are eligible for a loan modification under their specific guidelines.  Not everyone will qualify.

Options beyond a loan modification:

Move out of the house
If you don’t want to sell the home, perhaps you will be able to rent out your home and cover or almost cover the mortgage payment. Then you can seek out other living arrangements that comport with your ability to pay. When your income adjusts upward again, you can move back in.

Take on a tenant
Maybe you can rent out your basement or spare room to a tenant.  I know several people who are doing this just so that they can make their own mortgage payment.  Check your local city or county rental guidelines.

Sell the home
If you have negative equity, interview at least three real estate agents who are COMPETENT in the practice of listing and selling short sales. Do NOT hire an agent who has no experience in short sales.  If you decide to hire a Realtor who’s your friend or relative and that person has no experience listing and selling short sales, you get what you deserve.

Hire an attorney
Some homeowners seek out a loan modification only to find out that the real problem was far beyond just the mortgage but instead was an abundance of consumer credit card debt.  Maybe an appointment with an attorney who represents debtors is in your future. An attorney can fully explain all the reasons for and reasons against letting the home go to foreclosure, as well as all the legal consequences.  News today suggests a foreclosed homeowner might even be able to rent back their home from the lender!

Whatever you do, do NOT pay ANYONE cash up front for services before the services are actually performed (with the exception of when you hire an attorney.)  If you part with cash to pay a loan mod company, you are setting yourself up to become re-victimized.  They will tell you anything you want to hear in order to get your money because they know you are desperate. If you have money, hire your own attorney who will represent you directly. If you do not have money, contact your state’s bar association for a referral to free legal aid. 

Also worth saying: Avoid any third party who claims to have a solution to all your problems and asks you to sign anything.  Especially if they say, “This is perfectly legal.”  Before signing anything hire your own local legal counsel. Foreclosure rescue scams continue to be on the rise nationwide. 

Not everyone will qualify for a loan mod and not everyone is going to get their loan mod processed in a timeframe that the majority would consider anywhere near “good customer service.”  Loan servicing doesn’t have to provide you with good customer service because you have no where else to go.  There is no automated underwriting slam dunk approval system for loan mods.  There’s no stated income program for loan mods. Real humans underwrite the file and this takes time.  It’s going to take many, many years to work all the bad loans out of the system. We are in for a long ride.  If you don’t qualify for a loan mod it might be time to move on to other solutions.

$8K Tax Credit Closing Deadline of Nov 30 Could Slow Interest in Short Sales

Kary brings up an excellent point here. 

“One other agent short sale issue is going to pop up shortly, if it hasn’t already, but it will be a buyer’s agent issue. The $8,000 first time home buyer credit needs a property to close by November 30. Making an offer on a short sale property, without advising a first time homeowner of the risk of not closing by the deadline is probably malpractice. It’s sort of a “suitability” issue for real estate.”

It’s not outside the realm of possibility that falling in love with a short sale today means the transaction may not close by Nov 30, 2009.  I suppose there might be a chance that the tax credit will be extended or even expanded.  Yet many homeowners with Option ARMs were given verbal assurances that they would be able to easily refinance. 

I wonder what life is going to be like inside loan servicing during the month of November, when the pressure will be sky high to get these short sales APPROVED so the buyers can make the closing deadline?

Notice of Trustee Sales v. Trustee Deeds

Each month, Alan from Seattle Bubble religiously posts the Notice of Trustee Sale (NTS) numbers for King County. I’m very appreciative of his work because it saves me time each month so thanks again, Alan.  Cruising SB last night, I found Alan’s numbers alarming for June:  1615 NTS were filed.  Here are more numbers from Alan:

King County Notice of Trustee Sales

6/2009 – 1615
6/2008 – 576
6/2007 – 304
6/2006 – 299

180% YOY (280% of last year)

The last few months:
6/2009 – 1615
5/2009 – 992
4/2009 – 938
3/2009: 1089
2/2009: 838
1/2009: 909
12/2008: 660
11/2008: 540
10/2008: 643
9/2008: 607
8/2008: 575
7/2008: 728

If we’re seeing 180% increase year over year with notice of trustee sale filings, then where are the REOs? Well as it turns out, if you compare the trustee deed filings for the same month, you’ll see that a low percentage of Notice of Trustee Sales actually go all the way through the auction process. Here’s comparison data courtesy of Jess and Julie Lyda, which gives us a visual comparing NTS v. Trustee Deeds, which means title changed hands from the owner in default to a new owner. That new owner could be the bank/lender or someone who was the high bidder at the trustee sale. Here’s a link to a larger image of the graph.

So what assumptions can we make given facts that we already know? We already know that banks and lenders are postponing the majority of trustee sales in King County. We don’t have any data as to how long postponements are lasting.  If a homeowner is trying for a short sale or loan modification, we do know that the average wait time for banks to process these requests could easily be months based on nationwide reports from Realtors, home buyers and homeowners.  We also know that there are many banks who have turned into zombies, waiting for their number to be called and the regulators to show up on a Friday afternoon.  Postponing the losses from a foreclosure means the bankers can collect a paycheck for a few more months.

We also know that 50% of all loan modifications re-default by the 6 month mark. This pushes the foreclosure out longer and increases the overall losses to the bank/lender.  Another assumption we can make comparing data from Alan and Julie is that hundreds of REOs will be coming back on the market each month, which will put further pressure on home values.  Prime delinquencies are starting to surge and so are delinquencies in the upper home price ranges.

With what we know, home values will continue to feel pressure from many angles including higher inventory levels, continued tightening of underwriting guidelines, the lower prices of REO resales and short sales.

More on home price declines:

House Prices: The Long Tail from Calculated Risk
Case Shiller: Anemic Spring Bounce in April from Seattle Bubble
CR explains the difference between a bottom in housing starts and new construction homes and a bottom in residential resale homes in this post; Housing: Two Bottoms.

Short Sales and REOs to Finally Become a Search Field in the NWMLS

Courtney Cooper broke the news on Easter.  The Northwest MLS has voted to add a required field: “Third Party Approval Required” and “Bank/REO Owned.” From the NWMLS (no link): 
“NWMLS is excited to announce two new required fields; “3rd Party Approval Required

Distressed Property Law Changes Pass the Legislature

Proposed changes to the Distressed Property Law have passed both branches of the Washington State Legislature and the bill is headed to Governor Gregoire’s desk for her signature.  You can read the changes here. Real estate agents and Realtors are now exempt “from the definition of “distressed home consultant” when the broker or salesperson is providing services governed under the real estate brokerage laws and the services do not result in a distressed home conveyance.”

I have mixed feelings about the passage of the exemption. Real estate agents and Realtors were raging mad last summer when their liability increased under the original Distressed Property Law.  All through the summer and fall of 2008, agents swore up and down that they were going to avoid listing or selling short sales in order to limit their liability.  In a way, the Distressed Property Law had some good consequences: Only experienced agents were allowed to take short sale listings at some firms, and it became extremely important to make sure the homeowner was referred to legal counsel.  Short selling homeowners are often better served when their listing agent knows what they’re doing.  The home buyer is also better served when the seller’s listing agent is short sale-competent.  The Distressed Property Law brought this to everyone’s attention.  There were many agents who were very, very worried about increased liability.  So far, I haven’t heard about any lawsuits.

Something interesting started happening toward the end of fall, 2008.  November and December of 08 saw a remarkable increase in the number of real estate agents attending the Short Sale class.  Attendance went from, say, 15-25 agents all summer to 50-70 by December of 2008.  When I asked why they were in class, agents all agreed: “Short sales are becoming more and more of the percentage of available inventory.  We don’t have a choice anymore; we HAVE TO take these listings, even with the added liability. We need to pay our own mortgage and we also like to eat, Jillayne.”

So now real estate agents are exempt from the DPL (provided they’re not going to engage in a distressed home conveyance.)  This means we will see an increase in agents listing short sales left and right, whether or not they are short-sale competent

KLK and other agents have said that foreclosures would increase because of the Distressed Property Law.  I argued that it’s not the DPL that will result in more foreclosures but the normal unwinding of mortgage lending gone wild and that higher foreclosure rates will be with us for some time as homeowners who cannot afford their home loans sell or default and return to the housing market as renters.  As time moves forward through the rest of 2009, it will be interesting to see if, in fact, foreclosure rates decline.

How to Find Short Sales in the MLS

It’s important for real estate agents to track the percentage of listings where the homeowner is in financial distress as well as REOs (real estate owned), compared to the overall number of listings in a given market area. When short sales, pre-foreclosures, and bank-owned property make up a larger percentage of the overall available number of homes for sale, this has a downward effect on home values in that area. Yes, neighbordhood to neighborhood there “may” not be any short sales or bank-owned listings…today.  However, we are on an upward trend with foreclosures and watching what’s ahead can help home sellers make good decisions about how to choose a more agressive listing price if they are truly motivated to sell. We’ve done some research in the past on this. Galen wrote a post about search terms that work on Estately.  A few months ago I taught a Short Sale class in Snohomish County and an agent remarked that he had a buyer in a specific price range, I believe it was between $200K and $250K and he was looking for home in Everett, North to Marysville. He said ALL the listings in that price range and area were short sales with only one exception. Yikes! More short sales and bank-owned REOs mean more downward pressure on home values as the short sales that don’t close turn in to REOs and banks bring more and more REOs on the market. At this time, searching for short sales is not an option on the public-side MLS (Multiple Listing Service) per rule. Perhaps this is because the commission is paid by the seller and many believe it’s not in the sellers best interest to disclose the short sale status because that may draw low-ball offers. Now that we’re in a buyer’s market, perhaps home sellers and voting members of the MLS rules board would see that it’s in everyone’s best interest to attract the right kind of buyer. Investors have poured into California scooping up low end REOs because the sales price is low enough to allow for the home to be rented for enough to cover the mortgage payment long term. At some point, when Seattle area prices are more in line with rents, investors will want to search for short sales and REOs here.   Until then, by doing keyword searches we can also keep track of possible “ghost inventory” (REOs being held off the market by the banks) making an appearance here in the Seattle market. 

Here are some possible short sale and REO search terms to use besides just “short sale” and “REO.”

short payoff
motivated seller
subject to lender approval
bank approval needed

bank owned
corporate seller
corporate owner
no repairs
instant equity

What search terms should we add to the list?

What Happens When The Equity Isn't There, But The Contract Is?

Responsibility on the listing side…

Last week’s Rain City Guide discussion on Short sales got me thinking about some of the other things that are occurring in this market as well. Many homeowners have taken out a ton of equity and are either maxed out or upside down at this point, but some may not be aware of exactly how much they owe. When it comes to listing these properties – or any property, the listing agent should pull title, but also talk to the title rep and find out how much the property is monetarily encumbered by liens. Merely relying on the seller’s information is not enough to be truly diligent.

Take a seller who thought he owed X amount of dollars on his home. After being on the market for a while, the seller’s agent relied on that information to help when it came to reducing the price. A buyer came along and a contract was executed for the purchase of the property. One week before closing the listing agent calls the buyer’s agent and drops the bombshell: The seller actually owes quite a bit more than they thought. Instead of getting a nice chunk of change from their seller net proceeds, the seller will be short X amount of money to close.

Does this really happen?

You bet! Twice I have seen this happen personally and both times the listing agent had not bothered to check the actual amounts owed on the properties. Yes, a listing agent should be able to rely on the seller’s information, but as a matter of diligence shouldn’t they go ahead and take the extra step to get the full accurate information? Title has already been pulled in most cases anyway.

Sellers, you still have signed a contract:

It is helpful to know what you actually owe on your property before you sign a purchase and sale agreement to sell it. In order to stay within contract, a seller will have to come up with the short fall dollar amount to bring to the closing table.The NWMLS Form 21 Residential Purchase & Sale Agreement clearly states: “ Monetary encumbrances or liens not assumed by Buyer, shall be paid or discharged by Seller on or before Closing.

Short Sale Listings: Leaving Out Key Details Is Like Telling A Lie..

[Editors note: It’s always exciting to introduce a new author to RCG… and today I’m especially excited to introduce Courtney Cooper of Cooper Jacobs as the newest RCG contributor!  Far from a newbie, she’s been running an entertaining blog on ActiveRain for over a year now (and racked up tens of thousands of points in the process!), so I’m pretty sure she’ll have no problem making her impact on the RCG community.   Welcome Courtney!   ~Dustin]

Hello RCG!

Thanks Dustin and ARDELL for the encouragement! I am a huge fan of RCG and look forward to what lies ahead!

Pushing openness with short sale listings…

A lot has been written on Rain City Guide and elsewhere about short sales in the Seattle area, but 2008 had me working with far more buyers than sellers and one sentence kept popping up: “that house is a short sale

Is Excise Tax Payable on Short Sale Debt Forgiveness?

The Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) seems to think so.  Background: At an Escrow Association of Washington (EAW) meeting on Nov 13, 2008, Mel Kirpes and Steve Bren from  WA DOR spoke at a regional dinner meeting where it was announced that when there is a short sale, the DOR considers the debt forgiven as additional consideration above the contracted sales price between the parties and that the DOR will be pursuing the home seller for payment of the excise tax. (Reference is a EAW letter dated Nov 25, 2008 from EAW Director Cindi L. Holstrom)
Naturally this had a chilling effect amongst escrow officers.  The DOR responded on Dec 12, 2008 in a letter from Gilbert Brewer, Assnt Director of the DOR:

RCW 82.45 imposes an excise tax on the sale of real estate unless specifically exempt from statute. “The measure of the tax is based on the total selling price of the property conveyed. The incidence of the tax is usually on the seller.  However, if the tax is not paid in full, the tax (together with any interest and penalties) becomes a lien on the real property. This is mandated by RCW 82.45.030 …which defines “selling price” as the “true and fair value of the property conveyed.” If a property has been conveyed in an arm’s length transaction between unrelated persons for a valuable consideration, a rebuttable presumption exists that the selling price is equal to the total consideration paid or contracted to be paid to the transferor, or to another for the transferor’s benefit….”total consideration paid or contracted” to be paid as including “money or anything of value, paid or delivered or contracted to be paid or delivered in return for the sale, and shall include the amount of any lien, mortgage, contrat, indebtedness, or other incumbrance, either given to secure the purchase price, or any part thereof, or remaining unpaid on such property at the time of the sale.”

Since there is an exemption from real estate excise tax in the event of foreclosure or a deed in lieu of foreclosure (see WAC 458-61A-208) this DOR opinion may unfortunately motivate homeowners to consider foreclosure a more viable option. Perhaps the home seller’s Realtor can negotiate with the lender to pay for the additional excise tax lien as well.  However, then that extra amount paid by the lender may also be subject to excise tax.
The Seattle King Co Assoc of Realtors and Washington Realtors believes DOR’s position is incorrect and problematic.  On Jan 8, 2009, The Northwest Multiple Listing Association posted a notice to their real estate agent members as follows:

RCW 18.86 requires agents to advise their clients to seek expert advice on matters relating to the transaction that are beyond the agent’s expertise.  This duty exists in every transaction but is particularly important in short sale transactions where unique legal and tax issues exist.”

We’ve been saying the same on RCG for many years now. Short sales are way more complex for real estate agents than the average transaction and homeowners are best served when they have retained their own legal counsel to help them understand the lender paperwork as well as this current DOR trainwreck. You may be thinking, “homeowners in financial distress can’t afford an attorney.” However, some attorneys offer low cost options for homeowners facing foreclosure.

January 13, 2009
Department of Revenue: “After receiving extensive input from interested stakeholders and industry representatives about the nature of these transactions, we have carefully reconsidered how real estate excise tax statutes apply to these unique transactions [short sales]….we now see that these short sales are distinguishable from other transactions involving the forgiveness of debt because the seller negotiates separately with the lender for any debt reduction/forgiveness, apart from the actual purchase and sale of the property.  As a result, the loan forgiveness is not “paid or delivered in return for the sale” of the property, as required by RCW 82.45.030.”   Margaret J. Partlow, Senior Policy Counsel, Dept of Revenue. 

(Hat tip Rhonda Porter and Kary Krismer.)

Translation: We are not going to require sellers to pay excise tax on the debt forgiveness  with a short sale.

40 representatives from escrow, title, real estate, attorney, and short sale faciliator companies showed up in Olympia to help educate the Dept of Revenue. Thank you, Escrow Association of Washington, for bringing this to our attention and taking on the state head to head.

Lending Woes: A Deeper Consumer Analysis

This may seem like an odd analogy, but I remember this story about my Mom when she was having her 7th baby.  She was in “a ward” with only curtains drawn around each bed.  She overheard some people telling the lady in the bed next to her that she should have “her tubes tied”.  They were explaining the procedure to her.  My Mom jumped out of bed, ripped open the curtain of the woman next to her and yelled  “I want one of those!!!”  The people were embarassed and said, “I’m sorry but we’re only allowed to offer these to single women on welfare having their third child.  You weren’t supposed to hear that.”

Yes…I’m suggesting that to some extent The Information Age is in part responsible for the Subprime Crisis.   Subprime loans did not come into being in late 2003.  2003 is the year more people said “I want one of those!!!”

Couple that with the fact that the World as it IS has come to the conclusion that spinning words (like Death Tax vs. Estate Tax) is a persuasion tool. We used to say, “You can’t get a good loan, but we can find you a BAD loan, if that’s what you want.”  Most people said, “No, thank you…we’ll wait.”  Loans had letters that were easy to understand.  A Paper  = most lenders.  B through D Paper was a different lender for buyers with one or a few correctable issues over the short term.  Z Paper was basically the Mob with a license to lend.

People understood the alphabet, and they knew that a C-Mortgage was not as good as an A-Mortgage.  Life was more Transparent back then.  The need for Transparency today is largely due to the fact that professionals hide truth behind more persuasive language.  Don’t get me started on Listing Agent vs. Agent for the Seller.  Everytime I hear a buyer say “The listing agent was MY agent, looking out for me (and I heard it twice in the last 4 days) I want to scream. How the heck can you believe that “the agent for the seller” is looking out for you, the buyer? Maybe because they use the words “listing agent” for that reason. But that’s a different, though related, subject.

Couple that with small businesses (who only offered Sub-Prime loans) getting gobbled up by larger “one stop shops”.  All of a sudden the lender could give you an A Paper loan or a C Paper loan without a loan denial in between. When there was a loan denial in between, the buyer had a legal out with the Finance Contingency.  When the approval came…but it was for “a bad loan”, the buyer was locked into the transaction with no legal out.

Couple that with Real Estate Agents only caring if the buyer could get a loan, period…without caring on what basis.  Couple all of THAT with the fact that many Finance Contingencies did not give a buyer “a legal out” if they could not get a conservative “A Paper” loan, but could qualify for a SubPrime loan.

There are many factors that contributed to this mess.  Perhaps a fuller understanding of how the world changing in many and small ways led do the catostrophic consequence, will help all people who played a small part in the Country’s demise, change their small part in The Crime of the Decade.  In the end it was mostly No victims; no villains, just a lot of small tweaks and changes that snowballed into a Crisis Situation.

Let’s go back to the world as it was for a minute. 

1) Conventional Loan = 20% downpayment, 28% of gross income for housing payment, 36% of gross income for total recurring debt including the housing payment.  An 8% spread for debt payments.  If debt payments equalled 10%, then the housing portion was reduced to 26%.  There were no Credit Scores.  All credit issues were underwritten by hand and each and every negative item was explained by the buyer, in writing.  A separate letter for each negative item.

2) FHA Loan = slightly more lenient terms and dramatically reduced downpayment requirement.  The biggest reason to use FHA vs. Convential being the downpayment requirement, not the looser standards as to ratio and credit issues.  Almost no downpayment – 3% vs. 20% at the time. 

The first change was a long time ago! It started as a quiet whisper, like the people talking behind the curtain in the next bed from my Mom.  Some people were getting loans with only 5% downpayment, conventional.  When I started in real estate in 1990, most people’s perception was that they needed 20% downpayment or FHA.  Few knew that they could get a 5% down conventional.

The beginning of all of these problems goes all the way back to there.  Conventional lending guidelines made FHA less desirable.  The primary purpose of FHA was low downpayment…no longer a big spread between the two.

THEN in the early 90s, the lenders started stretching ratios from 28% to 33% of gross income on “the front end”  BUT the back end was only stretched to 38%, at first.  Stretched ratios entered the scene ONLY for people with little or no debt payments (just like tubal ligations being only for single women on welfare).  It had a stated and targeted “appropriate” audience.

When cars started costing more, lenders had to start figuring out a way for people to buy a house who already owned a car.  In many cases in the early nineties (before car leasing became popular, and probably why car leasing became popular) most young couples who each owned a car, could not buy a house.  The two car payments sucked up their whole back end ratio and subtracted from their front end ratio.  “I thought we could get a mortgage for 28% of our gross income or 33% of our gross income?”  “Well, yes…but the combined value of your two new cars is almost as much as the house you are trying to purchase!”

Everyone agreed that people needed both cars and houses…so ratios grew and grew and grew.  So, Sniglet, the changes in FHA are NOT fascinating at all. In fact FHA hasn’t changed all that much.  What’s happening is that lending standards on the Conventional side are creeping back to “The Way We Were”, putting the spotlight back on FHA, which is closer to the way IT was IF you cut out “automated” approvals.

Before you even think about buying a house, get your “other debt” issues down to no more than 10% of your gross income.  If you make $45,000 a year and your wife makes $25,000 a year, and you each have a car with a $400 monthly payment, you are spending 14% of your gross income on car payments!

Of course this Rise and Fall story would clearly fill a book.  But until everyone understands that a bailout or bandaid in ONE area only (or two) is not going to fix what ails this Country, we cannot have HOPE…and HOPE is what we need more than bailouts and fixes.

As I said in one of my previous posts: “2009 will not be a year of great change.  It will be a year of Great Hope for Change, one small step at a time, via you and me acting the best we can in each moment.”  Falsely creating hope with “Talking Points” and “Good News” articles is NOT the solution.  Expecting any one source to be the Messiah, is NOT the solution.  Every single person doing their part to improve the situation…is the only long term solution.  That means YOU!

Stop looking for someone else to come up with an answer.  Get out your teacup, and start emptying out your own little piece of the ocean.

I kissed a girl once. I was almost 50 years old and was in the middle of a divorce from a 20 year marriage.  I just wanted to make sure before I started over again, that I wasn’t starting out on a faulty premise that had been “fed” to me.  2009 is the year to test your foundations…so that when “The Rocovery” does come…it isn’t the old mess wrapped up in a bright shiny red bow.