Friday, November 19, 2010

Fannie Mae is cost cutting

Just got a newsflash via my email subscription to Inman.com, a real estate industry news source.

Fannie Mae has launched a pilot program in three markets in which it's only accepting offers on properties in its real estate owned (REO) inventory when they are first submitted online by agents representing buyers.

Test markets are Orlando, Detroit and San Diego.

According to Fannie’s press release, their goal is to “provide increased transparency and efficiency in the REO bidding process by providing buyer's agents with offer confirmations and allowing them to track the status of submitted offers.”

Fannie also says the move is an attempt to stamp out "property flopping" -- a fraudulent practice in which listing agents receive multiple offers but withhold one or more of those offers in order to help an investor purchase the home at a lower price.

Frankly, I think Fannie’s stated goals are complete B.S.

When I place an offer on a Fannie Mae property for a buyer client, I already get an email or verbal confirmation the offer was received. It’s true that tracking the offer status isn’t transparent. But the buyer & I either get a “yes” or get no answer. That’s not ideal, but it is simple. I don’t know about flopping. I suppose it could be a problem.

I think Fannie Mae is trying to do one thing, and one thing only: cut their operating costs. By cutting out the listing Realtor they’re lowering their cost to sell by at least 2% or 3% per home. With Republicans marching into Washington in January to take control of the House, the clamor to dismantle Fannie and Freddie will get louder than ever. I think this is a preemptive move to help The Two F’s claim they’re not as fiscally troubled as conservatives think they are, and perhaps bolster the Obama administration’s call to replace Fannie/Freddie with another type of government backed mortgage entity.

Time will tell!

If you hate the idea of government-backed mortgage programs, it’s interesting to note this: now that Fannie & Freddie are essentially government-owned, they’re free of the profit motive. That means they don’t have to chase market share and profits, which is what got them into trouble in the first place. If they were operating in the black but not keeping up with the rest of the mortgage market, wouldn’t that be acceptable?

If you’re a conservative, answer me this:

Why shouldn’t low-income people have the chance to own a small home? Do some people not “deserve” a home? Are only the middle class and above worthy of owning a home?

For most Americans, their home is the most valuable thing they own and is the way they provide retirement income for themselves. If nobody helps low income families buy homes and build wealth, aren’t we just going to support them on the taxpayers’ dime when they’re old?

What if Fannie & Freddie morphed into a small government-owned program, that provided budgeting & home ownership classes to low-income folks and gave them a chance to become responsible homeowners someday? What if the entity providing these mortgages was a charity? Or a church? Would that change your mind? 

What if the entity providing these mortgages was a for-profit business? Would you buy stock in that business to make their business model viable? Low income folks are usually also less educated, and more easily taken advantage of. So who should decide how much profit this fictional future mortgage company can make off of the low-income housing sector? Should it be unlimited?

I’m not trying to start an argument. (altho that might be kinda cool since we never feel we have enough blog traffic)  I’m seriously trying to get conservatives to talk to me in something more detailed than talking points. I’m sick up to my eyeballs of conservative talking points.  Chime in!