Monday, March 7, 2011

More Ways For Banks To Send The Wrong Message

The majority of us can certainly understand the need to tighten up the mortgage industry after the fallout from too many subprime and high risk loans which failed a few years back. However, the punishment still doesn't fit the crime.

Getting a mortgage continues to become even more of a challenge these days, with upcoming additions to the process potentially raising costs for consumers and for mortgage brokers starting in April. At this point in the real estate crisis, issuing mortgages is no longer the problem.

New research starts out as a positive statistic, to indicate that more investors are paying cash for properties as they take advantage of the good deals out there for buyers. New research of the Southeast Florida market (from Palm Beach to Miami) shows that more than 54% of houses and condos sold there during the 4th quarter of 2010 were paid for in cash. (This research was provided by That comes to more than 7,500 sold properties PAID FOR WITH CASH!

The purpose of these statistics is to show that homes are selling and the deals for buyers are good. And that could be. In 2006, about 13% of homes were purchased with cash. From a little more than one in ten to more than half - in under 5 years. Of course, in 2006 there were plenty more mortgage programs more easily available.

What does today's trend have to do with the banks? Plenty.

Face it, the majority of the 7,500+ homes paid for with cash were bought by investors. I'm sure a percentage of them bought more than one property at these low prices.

Yet, these investors paid in full instead of going for mortgages. If you have the cash, you'll get a mortgage. But in just this one slice of the country, there were about 7,000 possible mortgage transactions that did NOT happen. It's time to look at why.

My guess is this is because of how little the banks have to offer in return for cash today, even when compared with 2006 when mortgages were the vast majority. A savvy investor wouldn't put up the entire $200,000 for a condo when they could get a decent return on a long-term CD instead. So they would get a mortgage, enjoy the tax advantage, and pay it off as scheduled, while investing the remainder of their funds someplace else.

It could have been CD's, Money Market, or other bank programs that paid more than the paltry amount they pay now. No reason for investors to look in that direction today.

If getting a mortgage wasn't such a hassle, a savvy investor could make a $40,000 down payment on 3 separate properties valued at $200,000 each, and have working capital left over to pay the mortgages for months to come. Then, they could invest their "working capital" into short and long-term CD's to grow their money toward future property payments, or use a home equity loan on one property to help pay down the others.

But now, these investors are passing by the mortgage opportunity and putting their trust into turning a profit as the market turns for the better. Heck, if an investor were to sell later this year and only make $5,000 more on a $200,000 property, they would likely do better than with a 6-month CD.

Some consumers watch for trends by investors. Now they can see that a bigger percentage of people buying property are NOT getting a mortgage, even when they could. Not exactly an incentive for the typical consumer to want to take out a mortgage to buy another property.

Oh, I also have a hunch that the 7,500+ sellers who received cash from the buyer probably didn't use their money to start a savings account and watch it grow.

Hopefully the banks will do what it takes to bring back the home mortgage as a viable option, before it's too late.

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