Gold Rush: Are drilling rights the next mortgage boom?

Keystone debate rekindles domestic energy discussion

The mortgage industry is just coming up for air after an unreasonably slow winter.

All eyes are on the spring selling season to give an indication of the strength of the housing recovery.

Meanwhile, a larger fight over the future of the nation's energy resources is underway in the Senate. At stake is the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as pushing through an energy efficiency bill.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), currently the Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, supports both and believes the pipeline alone will bring 42,000 jobs and $20 billion in economic activity to North America.

However, the Obama Administration remains in opposition, and Landrieu defiant.

“The Keystone Pipeline is clearly in our national interest and vital to position North America as an energy powerhouse," said Landrieu this week. "I will press hard for a vote in the coming weeks to build this pipeline." 

"Significant investments in our energy infrastructure that connects producers, refiners and consumers creates thousands of high-paying jobs, pushes our economy forward and signals to the world that America intends to step up to the competition and become an energy superpower," she added.

Additionally, there are those who believe the further development of the energy sector, not just with the pipeline but with investments in drilling rights, could lead to the next mortgage boom.

“The Keystone XL pipe would spike the demand for oil,” said Ballard Spahr attorney Harry Weiss in a conversation with HousingWire. "However, if we’re going to meet our energy needs, there’s a tradeoff.”

The tradeoff Weiss is referring to is the conciliation of the mortgage-banking sector to the needs of the energy industry, without cancelling benefits to the homeowner or whomever owns the drilling rights on a property.

If done correctly, Weiss indicates, it could be a win-win, but naturally there are critics. “There is some hysteria because it’s being done in places that it’s never been done before," he added.

Unlike some claims that fracking could reduce property value, Weiss believes this isn't the case at all.

“The value of the mortgage where the borrower owns the drilling rights could be higher," he said. “There’s more security in the mortgage, but where the borrower just controls the surface, the concerns are heightened for mortgage bankers.”

Weiss notes that even though, when done correctly, energy needs can marry well with the preservation of mortgage investments, he warns that bankers need to be aware of the impact of the energy sector on personal property debt.

For example, if a homeowner wishes to sell or lease the drilling rights to their mortgaged property, the bank generally has to be notified and provide their consent.

“I know anecdotally that the borrowers aren’t always doing that,” Weiss warned.

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