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Investments

Hike in G-fees no longer seems justified

Housing recovery could be put further at risk

August 23, 2013
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The credit risk pricing implemented for a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac securitization is meant to mirror "what would be required by private sector providers," Federal Housing Finance Agency acting director Ed DeMarco said in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee testimony in April.

"We expect to continue increasing guarantee fees in 2013," he also predict.

Analysts took the statement to heart. In 2012, g-fees increased twice bringing today's average to between 52 to 55 basis points.

So the bet is how high will the next g-fee hike go? There is plenty of chatter recently.

"Investors expect further hikes given recent FHFA statements," said Barclays (BCS) in a note to clients. "The magnitude of hikes will depend on the type of housing finance system that emerges."

Estimates range somewhere between 70 to 100 basis points could be the eventual FHFA target. The FHFA will not speak to future movements as a matter of policy.

However, Goldman Sachs (GS) analyst Alec Philips said more hikes are unnecessary from a credit-risk perspective.

"Even assuming stress losses of 2.7% (the loss experienced in the 2007 vintage of prime mortgages of credit quality and documentation similar to current production) and a 15% return on equity, a guarantee fee of only 28bps would be needed, less than the roughly 50bps charged currently (guarantee fees had typically hovered in the 25bps range," he said in an email.

"But FHFA has mandated multiple increases over the last few years," he concluded.

In an exclusive interview with Bill Ashmore, president of mortgage financier Impac Mortgage (IMH), the view is largely the same as Phillips.

With the Fed set to begin tapering and interest rates rising, and the private market showing little ability to take on the GSEs, a rise in g-fees doesn't seem justified at this point.

"They’re trying to push it to 70 basis points, but they’ve got to hold that off," he told HousingWire for the September magazine. "They want more non-agency securitizations to occur, well $4 billion occurred in the first quarter, but after the run up in rates, there have been none since then that have occurred in the last 30 days."

So on one hand, DeMarco noted that increasing guarantee fees is part of the goal of contracting the Enterprises’ dominant presence in the marketplace. And if that is the goal, the FHFA will likely hike g-fees.

"The hope is that at some point the increases in guarantee fees will encourage private capital back into the market," he said in the speech. "We are not there yet, but in conversations with market participants, I think we are getting closer."

Well, we were getting closer, but in light of recent economic developments a rise in g-fees may do more harm than good.