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The Subprime Mortgage Credit Crisis

Oct 12, 2007
Over 20 percent of all mortgages originated from 2004 through 2006 were subprime mortgages. Nearly one quarter of all American homeowners in recent years purchased homes using subprime mortgage programs. The majority of these programs have now been eliminated. Mortgage expert Jim Kemish discusses the potential impact.

The End of the Subprime Industry

In late 2006, as real estate values continued to fall, the subprime lenders that made it possible for these borrowers to own homes begin to shut down. Within a period of 90 days between December of 2006 and March of 2007 the entire subprime industry as we knew it, vanished. And as these lenders either shut down or tightened their guidelines, millions of potential homeowners have discovered that they don't qualify for mortgage financing anymore.

The Real Issue

As disappointing as it may be for those millions of hopeful homebuyers now discovering that they no longer qualify for home loans, the real problem lies elsewhere. Subprime mortgage programs, as accommodating as they were of borrowers' credit profiles, were strictly structured to compensate the lenders for taking on the additional layers of risk associated with these poor credit loans.

The Adjustable Rate Impact

With few exceptions these loans carry adjustable rate features which are normally timed to adjust upward at some point during the first five years. The most popular of these programs is called the 2/28 which is timed to adjust upward after two years. Most borrowers using these loans expected to refinance after the two year period. Refinancing was not expected to present a problem. After all, real estate values were increasing and home financing was easy to obtain.

A Changing Real Estate Market

In a perfect world, a subprime borrower would purchase a home using a product like the 2/28 and be worry free. The booming real estate market would virtually guarantee that he would have sufficient new equity in his home to be able to refinance into a better mortgage when the time came. Or maybe he would just sell, and with his windfall be able to make a large down payment on a new home.

No One Believed it Could Happen

The worst case scenario was unimaginable. Real estate values had moved upward for over a decade. Mortgage lenders had become more and more accommodating. Who imagined that home prices would slowly stop climbing and then sickeningly begin to fall? And even if this were to occur, who thought that every single subprime lender would hit the brakes simultaneously within a 90 day period of time?

A Personal Story

A personal acquaintance of mine went through a difficult divorce in 2005. During the divorce his credit, once without blemish, was seriously affected. When the divorce was finalized he decided to move to Florida to make a fresh start. He was lucky to have enough money to be able to afford a 20 percent down payment on a new home. Because of his credit he was in a subprime category and elected to use a 2/28 for his financing.

A Reasonable Expectation

It was not unreasonable for him to feel fairly secure. He was purchasing a home in beautiful south Florida. Home prices were strong. His Florida mortgage was easily approved, and he had made a significant enough down payment to feel secure with his equity. It is now 20 months later. Four months remain before his mortgage rate will increase a full 2 percent. He figured that the timing was right to start planning his refinance.

Reality Dawns

His first shock was the discovery that home values on his neighborhood have fallen so much that his initial 20 percent equity is nearly gone. He no longer has enough cash to reduce his loan to 80% of the value, so he figured that he would have to refinance at a higher loan to value and just find a way to manage a higher rate than anticipated. Unfortunately, there was more disappointment to come.

The Result

He quickly discovered that he could not obtain financing at all. The combination of his impaired credit, the lack of equity in his home, and the elimination of the subprime products that made it possible for him to purchase the home, have now made it impossible for him to refinance. Instead he is being forced to try to sell his home in an environment where he will just get enough money to pay his mortgage and his closing costs.

Where to Turn

There are millions of homeowners like my friend. The adjustable rate features built into their mortgages add a degree of urgency as borrowers will be facing higher rates. We have two suggestions. Consult your mortgage broker now. Don't wait. There are new Fannie Mae programs that just might accommodate you. And consider credit repair. If your credit is marginal a credit repair professional might be able to help you improve your credit score enough to make all of the difference.

Copyright © 2007 James W. Kemish. All Content. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
Jim Kemish is the president and founder of Power Mortgage, a Florida mortgage company based in Delray Beach, Florida. Jim is also the President of Sky Blue Credit, a national credit repair business.
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