Conforming Loan Limit Decrease Will Increase Strategic Default


The conforming loan limit will be decreased by varying amounts in high end markets throughout the nation, according to the New York Times.

If congress does not take action, and I hope they don’t, September 30th is the date these homes will be governed by the private market, with interest rates likely being higher.

The FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac will pull out of these markets, as these loans are perceived by both political parties as being a burden on taxpayers. Potentially, less demand will cause the values of these homes to go down.

Of course, this deflation of housing brought on by less demand is necessary to forge another housing bubble down the road which bankers apparently want. I think government believes, however, that strategic default will not be an overwhelming issue, since polling seems to back the view that only 39 per cent of eligible defaulters would consider defaulting. This actually emboldens banks to want more easy money loans because they know that everyone will not default. If everyone did default, banks would reconsider easy money lending, which would be a good thing.  But there could be a change coming regarding views on the morality of the practice. 

It is this change of view regarding the morality of the practice that has banks worried. They are so worried that they are instituting tough measures to scare the potential defaulter into obedience.

While I don’t like to see housing values decline, because it hurts people who have worked hard to attain their status, housing should not be inflated artificially. Housing should be shelter first, and an inflation hedge second. It should never be a speculative commodity, rising faster than inflation, because it is too important to the nation. If the decline in price for these houses becomes a long term reality, then many more people could afford to buy these houses for a long time into the future, and they would have more discretionary income than some owners have now. Their wealth would be founded upon a sound market and not on the shifting sands of speculation.

People in New York, Massachusetts, California and other high end regions should brace for less demand and higher interest rates for mortgages above the conforming limit. This is the jumbo mortgage arena where less demand has already caused a decline in house prices. But perhaps we haven’t seen anything yet, as people will flee the higher rates until the prices themselves bottom out.

And owners should beware, because in the highest of high end areas, conforming loan limits could drop by the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is something for even the most affluent members of our nation to think about. But knowing that most of them are staunch free market zealots should make the decline of their house values more palatable. Or maybe not.

But since Fannie and Freddie are pulling out of this high end arena, they will have no influence on the defaulter like they did. As of last year, they were scaring defaulters with the threat of a 7 year ban on their mortgages. Now there is little to scare the strategic defaulter other than a credit score decline.

And, it has been shown that defaulters have a shorter window of risk in recourse states to lawsuit than do short sellers. And we know that California is a non recourse state. If a borrower does not have a recourse heloc, or a refinance into a recourse loan, that borrower is really free to walk away in a non recourse state. So, potential strategic defaulters, what are you waiting for?

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