Dr. Cliff Rossi is senior vice president, chief economist, at Radian Group Inc. In this position, Rossi is responsible for research, forecasts and quantitative analysis and [financial] modeling of Radian’s mortgage insurance portfolio and the housing and mortgage markets.
Armed with an overall measure of housing market performance relative to long-term trend; an accompanying metric explaining whether that market is overheated or not; and importantly a way to attribute deviations in home prices precisely to selected market variables, market participants would be in a better position to take precautionary actions to limit their exposure in highly volatile markets.
The FHA finds itself in a delicate position of balancing public policy interests against actuarial soundness of its $1 trillion plus Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. These twin policy goals at times run counter to each other, occasionally spilling over into the conventional-conforming market via FHA premium changes that create market distortions and adverse selection problems for the FHA.
Factors that affect the yield on 10-year Treasuries will over time be reflected in mortgage rates. Two of these are inflation and economic conditions. We have enjoyed a low inflation environment for a number of years but if we had a bout of higher inflation it would lead to higher rates as investors in bonds require additional compensation for a loss in buying power.
That lenders may be holding back a bit is not surprising as lessons from behavioral finance studies suggest that individuals tend to weight recent experience more than the past. Applied to the mortgage business and compounded by rising compliance costs, recent experience with heavy credit losses of the crisis could be dampening management enthusiasm for credit expansion in an otherwise expanding, albeit tepid economy.
The mortgage industry is leveraging technology like never before, streamlining processes across the spectrum of lending, servicing, investing and real estate. The combination of regulatory pressure and consumer expectations have set a high standard for efficiency and transparency, requiring a significant investment of time, money and talent to hit the right notes for both.
Ironically, the monkey on the mortgage industry’s back for the past 10 years — increasing regulation — is the very thing that forced companies to find efficiencies in every part of the process, which serves them well as they look to engage tech-savvy consumers. Even as the enforcement of some of those regulations is now in question, the long-lasting benefits of investing in automation will stand.
Mortgage banks have traditionally been slow to embrace new technologies, and while the technology that has improved efficiency, security and customer experience in a multitude of other industries (transportation, education and retail, to name a few) is finding its way into the loan production process, a lot of opportunity still exists in other stages of the mortgage life cycle.