Zandi: Mortgage credit is anecdotally easing

Bringing back private capital will be a delicate balancing act

The chief economist of Moody's Analytics, Mark Zandi, said there is evidence of some easing in mortgage credit in the purchase market, but the data does not yet support it.

Speaking about the U.S. housing recovery on a panel at ABS East 2013, a conference of more than 3,000 mortgage professionals underway in Miami, Zandi pushed the findings of his recent research, "Opening the Credit Box." He filed a question of when the purchase mortgage market may return in force in the wake of a fizzle in refinance activity.

Zandi was joined by the co-author of that study, Jim Parrott, who is also owner of Falling Creek Advisors.

Parrott is a recent insert to the panel after the counselor to the Treasury Secretary for Housing Finance, Michael Stegman, pulled out, citing the government shutdown. No Treasury officials are attending the conference.

Parrott added that further easing credit will remain a balancing act as moderator Nick Timiraos, housing reporter for the Wall Street Journal, kicked of the topic of reform at the government-sponsored enterprises.

"Is there a better way to ensure private securitization doesn't revert back to 2007?" Timiraos asked the two panelists.

"Bringing private capital back is a two-step equation, one is pulling government out of the space, and the other is creating the new infrastructure," Parrott said.

"If you pull the government back prematurely your are not reducing market share, you're reducing the market. You'll end up with a market where you'll have to put 30% down," he added.

Timiraos mentioned that housing financial reform appears to be gaining a foothold in Washington D.C. and cited the laundry list of initiatives in that area. This left the question of what would be a reasonable time frame for GSE reform to get going.

"My sense is there will be a window next spring where something can get through the Senate," Zandi said. "I'm skeptical. There is still very little possibility it gets through the Senate and lands on the President's desk. But, it's possible."

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