Thursday, February 26, 2009
The folks over at the Implode-O-Meter have launched a campaign to try to stop HR Bill 600 which seeks to reinstate "seller funded downpayment assistance", otherwise known as "FHA subprime", and I'm doing my part to help spread the word.
Despite those who desperately want the housing market mess to quickly heal itself so the rest of the economy can begin to climb out of the gigantic hole that it is now in, bypassing downpayments for home purchases really shouldn't be a part of it.
Looking back, of all the things that contributed to the housing bubble and bust, getting around the "skin in the game" requirement for borrowers through a variety of nefarious loan program ranks near the top of the list.
For all the easy money that washed over the world a few years ago, there was never a housing bubble in Germany. Why? In part, at least, because the buyer always had to come up with a sizable downpayment.
There's no reason to allow anyone to be able to buy a house anywhere without coming up with some of their own money. That's a character-building part of one's life that everyone should have to go through - saving for your downpayment.
While we are in desperate need of an end to the housing crisis in the U.S., we're in even more desperate need of character-building.
Here's the write up from Implode-Explode Heavy Industries (love that name!)
The contentious practice is called "seller-funded downpayment assistance" (SFDPA). It is used to allow home buyers getting Federally-backed mortgages to bypass the need for a downpayment, supposedly for charitable reasons.
On the surface, it sounds benign, but it is actually fraud and money laundering inflicted on the Federal Housing Administration (that is, taxpayers), the housing market in general, and in a sense, even the buyers!
One of these companies, Global Direct Sales (which runs the "Grant America Program") has sued us in an attempt to stop us from revealing the existence of SFDPA and discussing it frankly. SO FAR A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS BLOCKED THEIR ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE US. (Read More about our battle here. Help us to fight this NUISANCE lawsuit which is a blatant attack on free speech!)
How SFDPA works:
Someone wants badly to sell a home. FHA has subsidized programs to help home buyers. The "problem" is that even with FHA's programs, a 3.5% down payment is still required (to show committment on the part of the buyer). Sellers realize if they could cut the downpayment to zero, they can make home buyers out of virtually anyone, and hence unload homes easier. Intermediaries like Realtors, as well as home builders, realize this would have the potential to increase their sales and transactions. Even some in Congress are in on the scheme, as they can appear to provide constituents with "free homes". After all, home ownership is a right, isn't it??
Third party, private companies have established programs that allow sellers to cover the downpayment FOR the borrowers, by promising to repay the money after the sale. While initially the downpayment is covered by the SFDPA company, the seller's money is then channeled through one or more entities which have a nonprofit or otherwise "exempt" status (like an Indian tribe) to repay them. The buyer has already presented the LENT money to the FHA as if it were their own, covering the required downpayment. Effectively, the seller has paid the buyer's downpayment, with the FHA being none the wiser.
The FHA has no reliable way of knowing which loans were made this way.
The GAO has found that transactions using SFDPA usually have been marked up by about 3%... in other words, USUALLY THE SFDPA DOWNPAYMENT MONEY COMES FROM SIMPLY MARKING UP THE HOME VALUE!!!
Why is this bad? Well,
This is bad all around -- for everyone, that is, except the seller and the intermediaries INCLUDING THE SFDPA COMPANIES, WHO MAKE HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS IN "FEES" OFF EACH TRANSACTION. These companies have netted millions off of SFDPA, given the popularity of the programs with builders and Realtors (in other words, those who want to see homes sell, no matter what).
So why in the world is there a bill to get this practice started again? PERHAPS BECAUSE ITS CONGRESSIONAL SPONSORS LIKE THE DONATIONS THE SFDPA COMPANIES, REALTORS, AND BUILDERS KEEP SENDING IN, to help insure this particular loophole is kept open, and other "housing-friendly" giveaway legislation is put forth. The main sponsors are:
Does SFDPA Help Homebuyers?
Some argue that SFDPA should be allowed because it helps people get into homes. But this makes no sense:
Why Did The Bill Number Change?
Since the 110th Session of Congress ended with H.R. 6694 still pending, it had to be re-introduced for the 111th. It received the number H.R. 600. However, there is some "apparent" difference. H.R. 6694 specifically instituted fees to attempt to cover the risk of SFDPA lending. However:
The end result: SFDPA borrowers would be treated just like subprime borrowers, and the FHA (taxpayers) would still likely lose lots of money overall.
HR 600 does omit the section of HR 6694 that set up the premium structure. However, it still requires the FHA to set up a premium structure for borrowers with a FICO score under 620 and authorizes the FHA authorizes FHA to charge up to 3% upfront and 1.25% for annual premiums up to a fico of 679. So in other words, more of the details have been moved from the legislation itself to future FHA rules. We believe this is simply a tactic to deflect criticism -- especially of the use of FICO scores as risk-control criteria -- not to actually change the nature of the SFDPA legislation.
The law is substantially the same -- the renewed SFDPA would provide no-money-down, subprime-like loans at great peril to the FHA and taxpayer. It would continue to inflate home values, and likely lead a great many home buyers into foreclosure.
IT MUST BE STOPPED.
How you can help: