Posts Tagged ‘Resolution Trust Corporation’

Could Wall Street Save the Housing Market: Part 2

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

My recent column on the Huffington Post reported on the advent on Wall Street into the housing market as companies like Blackstone and Colony Capital commit billions of dollars to bulk buying bank-owned (REO) single-family homes.

I agree that there are pros and cons to this program. The clear source of popular resentment is that the equity lost by homeowners as their home values plummet will be recaptured by large investors when they go to flip the assets once asset prices start to stabilize. Given the low cost of leverage and the low acquisition prices, the large-cap investor wouldn’t have to wait for prices to get back to par in order to make their targeted returns. So, is there another way? Well, yes. Homeowners could stay in their homes. That’s why the Obama administration created the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) which has saved approximately 802,000 U.S. homeowners from foreclosure as of April 2012 – a worthy achievement but far from the 4 million expected and not enough to make a dent in the housing problem. HAMP was tempered by the lack of lender participation in the program. Of HAMP’s $30 billion budget, thus far it has only spent $3.23 billion.

To go back to the investment firms, remember that part of the strategy is to avoid evicting people from their homes. In the best of circumstances, these homes would be rented to their former owners who would also have an opportunity to acquire the home as the exit strategy. Each of these firms has their own strategy but I’ve spoken personally to private equity firms that are making a good faith attempt to prevent people being ejected from their homes for a simple reason – it’s preferable and cheaper than having to re-lease these homes. What are the alternatives? We could let the bad loans sit on the books of financial institutions which can cripple the credit system for years or decades (that’s what happened to Japan in the 1990s); or foreclosed homes can end up being acquired piecemeal in one-off or small auctions which isn’t efficacious in bringing back an enormous market. The argument to be made is that the Wall Street may be that critical intermediary step before the consumer sector is ready to take back the housing market.

A good analogy is what happened in commercial real estate. In 1989, the market hit bottom because of the Savings & Loan crisis.  S&L’s made hundreds of billions of dollars worth of loans on commercial real estate and saw asset prices freefall after Black Monday. Between 1989 and mid-1995, the government stepped in under the guise of the Resolution Trust Corporation which closed or otherwise resolved 747 thrifts with total assets of $394 billion. At the peak in early 1990 there were 350 failed savings and loan institutions under the agency’s control. Just like the GSEs today, they organized bulk sales of commercial buildings and loans.  Who bought them? Large Wall Street firms. It was an enormous transfer of wealth, no question,  but it also brought a new professionalism to the industry – portfolio-level strategy, transparency in pricing and underwriting, a new skill in operations, managing supply and demand, and accurate reporting. Our industry was transformed.  By the late 90s, asset prices shot back up and reached record levels. In 2007, when the recession hit, the industry was affected but far less than it would have been had it not been for how it had evolved. We simply didn’t have the levels of overbuilding that we did in previous recessions. And, incidentally, Wall Street allowed the person on the street into the industry.  The level of public ownership of commercial real estate today is unprecedented. For the first time, your 401K and stock broker could invest on your behalf in commercial buildings. And REIT stocks remain one of the strongest in all of the equity markets today. So, there will be struggles but the housing market will certainly benefit from this — the rigor and reporting that Wall Street will bring to the single family sector which will help make it much better prepared to face future recessions.

Jafer Hasnain: Solving the Foreclosure Crisis

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Listen to Jafer Hasnain’s podcast on solving the foreclosure crisis.  Foreclosure is mutually destructive for all parties and something should be done about it.  That’s the opinion of Jafer Hasnain, Managing Principal of Lifeline Assets, the first large-scale institutional investment fund targeted toward acquiring single-family homes that are in financial distress.  The firm’s business model aligns the interests of distressed homeowners, banks, investors and American taxpayers.  Lifeline Assets is a socially responsible fund that plans to invest more than $1 billion in distressed homes through short sales.

In a recent interview for the Alter NOW Podcasts, Hasnain said that the real problem shaking the economy is on the residential side.  At present, the $15 trillion American mortgage market is seeing 1.4 percent of loans in foreclosure, with another nine percent past due.  Hasnain, who had a front-row seat when the Resolution Trust Corporation spent $125 billion to relieve financial institutions of their distressed real estate in the 1990s, is providing a private sector solution to the housing crisis that relieves the taxpayers of that burden.

Hasnain has built one of the first institutional-scale single-family residential investment funds in the United States and created a price discovery mechanism that is an objective and sensible way to learn how much to pay for a house whose mortgage is in distress.  This way, a family in a home that has gone in default agrees to stay in the house, pay rent and maintain the property until they have the financial ability to re-purchase their home.  Lifeline Assets’ offer to purchase each house is contingent on the resident’s willingness to continue living there.

 
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Investment Banking in an Economic Meltdown

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Investment banks are hunkering down to preserve capital, primarily because there are grave concerns about current property valuations, says Charles Krawitz, Senior Loan Sales Asset Manager, Fifth Third Bank, in an interview for The Alter Group podcasts on real estate.  Banks are reluctant to lend $10 million to a property that might be worth only $8 million, and with good reason. Multifamily housing currently is the least distressed asset class, thanks to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA financing that is creating a market for loans on these properties.

Distressed assets fall into three tranches – buildings, loans and securities. According to Charles, if a property is struggling and the cash flow is impaired, there is a commercial lending problem. In a CMBS structure, the loan has been sliced and diced so many times that it’s likely to be toxic and beyond restructuring. Fully 1.8 percent of commercial loans cannot be restructured, and $400 billion in loans are rolling over this year alone. The challenge is to pin down values in a distressed market when there are no comparable sales statistics.

One smart thing that the government has done is expand loans to small businesses through the Small Business Association (SBA). With interest rates so low, this is very beneficial to small businesses, Charles notes. Capital is once again flowing – though not in a tsunami – but that’s very good news. The government will be an equity partner, and it’s likely that certain approved vendors will be part of this program. A lot of questions remain, but it’s a very strong effort on the government’s part.

Use the player below to listen to Charles Krawitz’s entire interview on the state of investment banking:

 
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