The Return of the $1,000 Down Mortgage

By
Thursday, August 05, 2010 at 6:00 am

In Wisconsin and other states, home buyers might be eligible for 100 percent financing on mortgages. (Creative Commons.)

“Buy new with $1,000 down,” the advertisement says, the words resting atop a trim green clapboard house offset by a bright blue sky. “The time has come. Stop wasting rent check after rent check and start building equity in your own home. And with only $1,000 down, affordable monthly payments and no private mortgage insurance required, the dream is closer than you think.”

[Economy1] It sounds too good to be true. But it is true. This offer does not come from a subprime lender, looking to reel in thousands of unqualified and ill-advised homebuyers, only to slap them with add-ons, fees and variable rates. It is not a teaser or a trick. The advertisement references a program initiated by the National Council of State Housing Agencies and Fannie Mae, the taxpayer-backed, government-sponsored enterprise that buys up mortgages from lending banks.

The pilot program is called “Affordable Advantage,” and it has now been adopted by three states — Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Idaho. (Other states, such as Pennsylvania, California and Colorado, have similar state programs.) The initiative is small, reaching just a few hundred people so far. But it is looking to expand. Given the dangers of these types of mortgages and the specter of the housing bubble, where unconventional loans wreaked disaster, it is also raising questions from wary housing experts and legislators.

Fannie Mae helped to create Affordable Advantage after the state government agencies tasked with expanding homeownership found they were having trouble doing their job. Before the recession hit, these housing finance agencies, known as HFAs, issued tax-free bonds and used the funds on programs to encourage developers to build in underserved areas and to support single-family mortgages. When the financial crisis hit, private companies — leery of the collapsing housing bubble and freezing mortgage market — no longer wanted to buy the HFAs’ bonds. Their business ground to a halt.

To help HFAs move forward, Fannie Mae and NCSHA stepped in. Fannie Mae agreed to purchase mortgages with tiny down payments, as long as the homebuyers were vetted — had excellent employment histories and credit, and merely lacked a cash reserve for a down payment. And the participating HFAs agreed to buy back loans if they became delinquent, in lieu of Fannie asking for more-traditional mortgage insurance.

“[The program] was created to support state HFAs and their efforts to provide qualified first-time homebuyers with financing in the wake of the housing and economic downturn,” Janis Smith, a Fannie Mae spokesperson, says. “HFAs are nationally regarded leaders in affordable housing finance and their business is prudent, sustainable business. HFAs work closely with their borrowers to ensure they’re well prepared for homeownership. As a result, the loans delivered by HFAs have very low delinquency rates. In addition, HFAs work with first-time homebuyers who need and are qualified for affordable housing — a segment that has seen increased demand with the downturn in the housing market.”

Now, qualified homebuyers in the three states pioneering Affordable Advantage do not need to put down the 3.5 percent minimum down payment required by the Federal Housing Administration, or much of a down payment at all. They can get 100 percent financing — a loan as big as the purchase price of the house — for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage — a vanilla mortgage. The deal includes a program to help homebuyers if they become unemployed, lowered fees and there is no requirement that the homebuyer purchase mortgage insurance.

Wisconsin started the program first, in March, offering 100 percent loan-to-value mortgages for borrowers with a minimum credit score of 680. “It’s a good credit score,” explains Kate Venne, the spokesperson for the Wisconsin HFA. “In addition, we want to see what other lines of credit people have, and their performance. We look at their work history. We call their employers.” Thus far, Wisconsin’s HFA has offered $52 million in mortgages to 450 buyers.

But there are concerns and problems intrinsic to purchasing a home with almost no money down. First and foremost, if the housing market turns down even a fractional amount, the homeowner will go “underwater” immediately. If the price of the house falls by even a bit, he will owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth. If he needs to sell it, he needs to come up with extra cash to pay the bank back. And the fact that the homeowner only had a thousand dollars to put down in the first place implies that he does not have much financial breathing room and might default.

“That is clearly a worry,” says Barry Zigas, the director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America. “But for people who are buying a home first and foremost as a place to live, the fact there might not be much equity, or the equity might go negative — that’s not the most important feature.”

He argues that vetted low-income buyers have excellent track records in terms of default, as long as they are invested in their communities and have good employment and credit histories, if not savings. “The more equity you bring to your transaction, the more security you bring. But this can be a great way for people to gain access to homeownership who might not have been able to otherwise. And with mortgage rates what they are” — at historical lows — “this program lets those specific people gain mortgages.”

Others disagree. “Haven’t they noticed what’s happened to the country in the past five years?” asks Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “You’re not necessarily helping if you’re helping them buy a home where they’re in the position they won’t be able to afford it. I don’t understand the logic of this. House prices are still going to fall. And when they do, we haven’t helped these people who are going to have to work like crazy to pay their mortgage off, or they’re going to default. If you’re in a situation where this is the only mortgage you can get, you shouldn’t be buying a house.”

And many of the governments’ own economists believe that houses should not be many Americans’ primary investment. Karen Pence, who leads the Federal Reserve’s real estate finance research group, argues that homes are a terrible investment and believes the government should offer fewer programs and incentives to subsidize homeownership.

On top of that, Affordable Advantage raises questions since, at the end of the day, taxpayers are backing its investments — Fannie Mae being under the government’s conservatorship, and Treasury being the main purchaser of bonds from the state HFAs. In recent months, the government has turned away strongly from programs helping encourage mortgages with low down payments.

The Federal Housing Administration, for instance, considered a plan to let homebuyers use the Obama administration’s $8,500 first-time homebuyer tax credit to cover the 3.5 percent minimum required down payment. It received such push-back from the Hill, incensed the federal government would pay homeowners to have no skin in the game, and from housing experts, that the Department of Housing and Urban Development pulled the program. Indeed, faced with a 14 percent delinquency rate, the Federal Housing Administration increased the premiums it charges to insure some mortgages this year. And it set down payment requirements at 10 percent for borrowers with low credit scores.

On the Hill, increasing numbers of legislators want to ban mortgages with low down payments outright. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) last year introduced legislation requiring FHA borrowers to put down 5 percent at least. This spring, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) requested an amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill requiring minimum 5 percent down payments for private mortgages. Multiple legislators from both sides of the aisle have recommended looking at down-payment reform for Fannie and Freddie.

Low-income housing advocates argue that the state programs have much lower default rates than the national average, because the state HFAs had good track records of checking out prospective candidates and offering loans only to good ones. Kate Venne, of the Wisconsin HFA, says its default rate is just 1.83 percent. But more and more believe that the products are simply too dangerous, and that the government should no longer boost homeownership for Americans without the means to put at least 3.5 percent down.

“In today’s world, without question, we’ve learned two lessons,” FHA Commissioner David Stevens told reporters this winter. “One: homeownership is important to the sustainability of communities. And two: not everybody should own a home.”

Correction: A prior version of this article misstated the name of the Federal Housing Administration, as the Federal Housing Agency. TWI regrets the error.

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Comments

46 Comments

a real banker.
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

if a community bank has a default rate of 1.83% annually, they will eventually fail….that's far too high a ratio to support a bank's balance sheet. It needs to be <1%.


clarenceswinney
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

FANNIE $700,000 MAX LOAN??
This is called low income housing?
Let WSA have Fannie and stop our guarantee.
They got into derivates.
Why guarantee Gamblers?

olduglymeanhonest


Caileagh
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

The Why is easy. Too many houses sitting empty. Empty houses mean lower tax base. Less money to waste and put in personal coffers. They know the consequences but figure someone else will have to deal with that.


Eric Williams
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

What Fannie/Freddy/FHA/HUD should do is “forgive the shortsales/foreclosures credit remark” on those that atttempted through modification of their mortgage to save their homes. Get them back into the market and start selling those homes again.


Dsteele13
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

The recovery of housing is essential to the recovery of our economy. We risk far less from low down payments than we do from continued housing devaluations. We MUST now certify the affordability of the mortgages buyers seek in order to prevent further catastrophe. With that in mind I witness millions of possible requalified home seekers.


Crissa
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

That's dumb. Failure rate doesn't need to be perfect, only that either their interest or the collateral should balance their sheets.

If the collateral doesn't, then it's not really a secured loan, is it?


Ben Huynh
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

That is the new news!


Bigwaves
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 1:02 am

what the heck are you smoking..thats how we arrived at the depression were in today….

must be a fha, fannie employee


Nation United
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 2:18 am

Bigwaves – actually we got into trouble because the loans were teaser ARMS and the homeowner couldn't afford the higher payment – not to mention we had no idea what the home-buyer qualified for since there was no income verification… not to mention up to 100% financing. These deals are full doc with fixed rates and fixed payments and the homeowner must go thru counseling; probably a Mortgage similar to rents and these families have to live somewhere – better with pride of ownership. Here Here Dsteele!


Bulfinch
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 4:33 am

However, the renter does not have to pay for a new roof, plumbing, etc., they do not have to pay property taxes, etc. If these families are hand to mouth, then where the hell are they supposed to get money for these repairs??? More debt, that's where. Credit, or more likely, some usurious payday advance loan. If you want affordable housing, then let the market correct already and quit trying to entice people into mortgage debt. Let prices come down, stay stagnant, as they will with less meddling, and let some of these lower income families take advantage of prices that reflect wages/salaries. They might actually get to see some appreciation in their lifetimes with such a model as well — which, whether you like it or not, is a much bigger impetus for taking on a mortgage than any cozy notions of home sweet home.

This program is just another way to keep the money-go-round spinning. Nothing has been fixed since the 2008 meltdown, just repackaged.


Sirnonymous
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 5:40 am

We are so done.


Gerrard
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 9:29 am

Obama's anticipated mortgage “forgiveness” for homeowners underwater and THIS program continue to keep housing prices artificially high. Why is that so hard to understand? People are buying houses with other people's money. They can “afford” more using NOT their money and bid the price of house up.


Tomthetruthtell
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

I find this rather easy to see thru. Fanny and Freddy are Governmental backed agencies. Might as well say they are the Government. If I was the Government and I wanted to have total control (as in being a dictator) of the country I would do it by disallowing individual rights to ownership of land, houses, businesses, guns, healthcare, etc. what would be the easiest way to have my way? Easy, forclose on all property! Take control by ownership of the entire country! Take control of all individual and corporate rights. I would do it by purchase of corporate enities and theft of individual properties and rights.


Rick74
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

I see Barney Frank and Chris Dodd chuckling in the back of the room.

Is this a Yogi Berra moment? Like Deja Mortgage Default all over again?


Idaslapter
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

What a stupid idea !!!


Tiltedtalk
Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 2:01 am

This is why we had the housing meltdown, which led to the financial meltdown. These dunces in DC just don't care – it's not their money. You better start learning to speak Greek real quick…


Tiltedtalk
Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 2:05 am

No matter which way to get to it (zero down or ARMs…) the main determinant of mortgage foreclosure is if you're under water or not. Mortgage to value ratios are king. And this stupid program puts you in immediate risk of being underwater. I think I should take advantage of this. Put $1k down then never pay my mortgage and live rent free for a year or so while they try to evict me then have no recourse (or don't bother to pursue it) I'll live on the dole of the next gov't bailout.


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Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 9:53 am

good


louis vuitton
Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

nice


Blg
Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

Uh, no, the recovery of MANUFACTURING is essential to the recovery of our economy.


Jon
Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

Absolutely right. There will be no return to “normal” until everything that has been propped up for 15-20 years and allowed to over inflate — specifically real estate, cars, and college educations — is allowed to deflate and the free money for all this crap dries up. Bringing back more of our industrial base will help at the other end of things as well. People who want to just re-inflate the bubble with all the fake money and credit are just delusional Keynesian Klowns.


Swiftsaid
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 2:09 am

Check out my blog related to this post. This story is truly amazing. We have learned nothing from sub-prime! Let's just start this vicious circle again and race to the bottom…http://www.mypeoplesvoice.com/affordable-advantage-by-fannie-mae/


Twocanpete
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 5:25 am

This program should fit in well with the nine dollar an hour jobs working Americans are expected to live on in today's economy!


Neil Fritz
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 10:54 am

Mortgage programs should target sustainable urban areas and individuals/families who can afford to own homes.


annie
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

Hear those alarm bells ringing? If a family cannot manage to save 10-15% down on the home of their choice and affordability, I would bet it is unlikely that their credit history is outstanding. How much more low can the feds go, to get unqualified buyers into a new home>


H CooK
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

I bought my first home on a 100% mortgage. I now own two houses (due to having to move for my work) and regard the second as saving toward my retirement. Not everyone can save even 3.5%. I changed my occupation and spent 8 years as a student in my 30s. Social mobility is at a very low point in the USA – that means there is not much opportunity for people to get ahead. If the HFAs have a good record they should be supported to help low income earners, single mothers and others who have little opportunity to save and often pay high rents.


Bodecoa
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

I don't see the problem. ONLY those with good credit can receive these funds. If you are a low or middle income family and have been able to pay rent and support your family while keeping your credit score intact, there is no indication that owning your own home will suddenly make you irresponsible. The only problem that arises is when a home is sold to someone who doesn't make enough money to cover the payments, insurance and taxes. FHA isn't in the habit of selling homes to people that are priced out of their means.


Tomas
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

Here we go again. Cheap easy credit, exactly what got us here in the first place. But we cant let this blown out tire of housing fall any farther, we must keep blowing more air into it, keep it pumped up, otherwise we will crash. OH!!! Horrors!!!!! But what ever happened to those now dirty words of 'plant and equipment' or 'R & D' ? Oh, I remember! We shipped them all to India and China because they needed the work. Now we are getting rid of all the Mexicans that do all the work that the all too proud Americans will not do, like raising the food we eat, so that we can sit on our hands and wait for the bums in Washington to do something. So what do they do?? More easy credit. What a deal!!!
Has anyone ever added up just what Washington D.C. Cost us to make these fine decisions?


Juan
Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

This program doesn't scare me at all. The people are being thoroughly vetted, must have high FICO scores, etc. In no way is this like the madness of the early to mid-2000s when you had people flipping like crazy, liar loans and stated income loans, all sorts of unqualified people getting jumbo loans,etc. And then Wall street just gobbling all this junk up and securitizing like mad. Just like we had a tech bubble in 2000, doesn't mean all tech start ups are bad. Just because we had a ridiculous sub prime and alt A mortgage mess, doesn't mean all subprime loans *necessarily* go bad.


gloriay
Comment posted August 9, 2010 @ 4:22 am

Instead of sticking their necks out one more time and creating another group of homeowners who may end up foreclosing because they over reach once again, it may be more beneficial if Freddie and Fannie were to design a true modification program to assist struggling homeowners. This may reduce the number of foreclosures,help homeowners who are at the brink, and allow some homeowners who walked away but who can afford it to return to their homes and renegotiate mortgage payments. Instead of introducing a brand new program, they ought to tailor the current program to the new design.


Tiltedtalk
Comment posted August 9, 2010 @ 4:40 am

What we need are strong recourse laws like they have in Canada (where they can garnish wages). The incentive in our current system is to gamble and if the house goes up in value, you pocket the cash. But, if the house's value drops you just walk away with almost nothing to worry about (your credit will be fixed in a few years, or just buy on your spouse's credit). Furthermore, why should taxpayers who were prudent and did NOT make a poor decision to buy a house they couldn't afford now be FORCED to help people who did make those bad decisions pay for their mortgage? Money should not be stolen from their paychecks to pay for other people's mortgages. We do not live in a world without risks and the more our gov't tries to make it a risk-free society the more likely we are to have bailouts and meltdowns. A free enterprise system is a system of profits and losses, not profits and bailouts.


Tiltedtalk
Comment posted August 9, 2010 @ 4:42 am

No matter how high your credit score is or how much cash you have in your bank account a low-downpayment load is a terrible idea. The incentive is still to walk away if the mortgage becomes underwater. $1000 is not much skin in the game and you are dangerously close to being underwater if that's all you put down. I'll stop here since I expanded on this below in a different post…


ERL
Comment posted August 9, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

GIVE ME A BREAK!!! THE GOVERNMENT COULD GIVE ONE MILLION DOLLARS($1,000,000.00) IN MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS TO EACH INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYER IN THIS COUNTRY TO PAY FOR A HOME AND STILL PAY OUT LESS THAN THE AMOUNT WE HAVE GIVEN OUT TO FANNIE MAE, FREDDIE MAC, THE BANKS, OTHER MORTGAGE COMPANIES, AGI, AND WALL STREET TO MISMANAGE!!!! TAXPAYERS WOULD STILL PAY INCOME TAX, DO AWAY WITH THE DEFICIT, RESTORE SOCIAL SECURITY, AND THE ECONOMY WOULD THRIVE. THE NUMBERS DON'T LIE AND IT DOESN'T TAKE A GENIUS TO FIGURE THIS ONE OUT!!!!!


louis vuitton
Comment posted August 13, 2010 @ 4:30 am

No matter how high your credit score is or how much cash you have in your bank account a low-downpayment load is a terrible idea. The incentive is still to walk away if the mortgage becomes underwater. $1000 is not much skin in the game and you are dangerously close to being underwater if that's all you put down. I'll stop here since I expanded on this below in a different post..


Pete
Comment posted August 13, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

Its another effort to make you slaves to the tax system, your employer, and to mortgage your future. This is not the business of government, never has been, and never should have been. They have proven their ineptness many times over and they cant wait to prove it again.


smartwidowlady
Comment posted September 19, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

I cannot believe this. Absolutely surreal. This is why the real estate problem is what it is today. Until people can learn to save up the money for the down payment of at least 10%, plus the closing costs, they should not buy a home. If they don't have the personal responsibility to save for the down payment, they surely won't have the personal responsibility to make timely mortgage payments.

Absolutely disgusting!


Woman
Comment posted September 24, 2010 @ 4:48 am

It amazes me that everyone who has something negative to say has the security of owning their own home. Saving for a down payment doesn't make you more responsible. Many home owners simply sponge off others until they can obtain enough money to put down ie: live with their parents. If you were so concerned with people actually paying back the loans you would NOT ignore the new program has a 1.8% delinquency rate. I am CERTAIN this is much lower than the delinquency rate of a conventional loan. This is an excellent program and as long as they continue to lend responsibly it will never end up in the dire circumstances of the present conventional loan disaster.


Your Daddy
Comment posted September 30, 2010 @ 6:06 am

“Until people can learn to save up the money for the down payment of at least 10%, plus the closing costs, they should not buy a home. If they don't have the personal responsibility to save for the down payment, they surely won't have the personal responsibility to make timely mortgage payments.”

Really? I got a 100% loan a few years back on the home I own now. I had the income to support the loan, and only didn't have enough for both a down patment and closing costs because I had never considered buying a home before that point. I had a cushion of savings, but that was about enough for closing costs… so… I had a good solid job, a cushion of savings, and otherwise was having fun with my money as I'm entitled to…i worked hard for it, and I was enjoying it.

I didn't get a great rate since it was 100% financing and my credit was decent but not great, and yet even though I was probably paying way more than I should have been (if I had done it 'right' and gotten a traditional loan) I have never come close to missing a payment. My credit is great now, my income has gone up about 2x what it was since then- and although my family has grown too large to fit this place, I never considered a short sale. I would only sell if I can pay the difference out of pocket, which I mostly likely can because, again, I was responsible enough to save.

I'm not saying I totally agree that it's a good idea…anyone can lose their job, or find themselves in some hardship where 100% financing can end up being a disaster…I was lucky. But the fact is, whether or not someone HAS saved for a down payment doesn't indicate whether they CAN or whether they are responsible. People's priorities would and should be different once they own a home and have the responsibility of a mortgage. Banks examine risk based on multiple factors- if someone has good employment history and good credit, and by all other measures can afford to make the payments, I don't think we should still just assume this person is risky just because they didn't choose to save up the down payment. That said- I dont' think they should be bailed out or given tax payer backed programs to bail them out or restructure their mortgage if the market turns down either… buying a home is an investment that comes with risk like any other investment.


mcp
Comment posted October 15, 2010 @ 12:01 am

I enjoy how? this video is only proven more correct as time marches on.


hermes birkin
Comment posted April 23, 2011 @ 6:46 am

, they should not buy a home. If they don’t have the personal responsibility to save for the down payment, they surely won’t have the personal responsibility to make timely mortgage payment


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