Pre-crisis flashback: Lone Star bringing back risky mortgage bonds

An isolated case? Or a harbinger of things to come?

In what’s being called “post-crisis milestone,” Lone Star Funds is reportedly preparing to sell mortgage bonds backed by riskier mortgages that fall outside of the Qualified Mortgage designation.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the riskier mortgage bonds were more commonplace before the crisis, but the Lone Star deal could “herald a new era.”

From the Bloomberg report:

It was a small deal — about 220 U.S. home loans packaged into a $72 million bond offering — but it’s looking like a post-crisis milestone.

That’s because the securities created by private-equity firm Lone Star Funds were backed by new loans to U.S. homeowners with riskier credit profiles in which the government didn’t take at least some of the default risk.

Ever since the U.S. housing crisis, Wall Street’s mortgage-bond issuance has been largely limited to bundling old, soured debt or big loans made to the wealthiest Americans. The only securities backed by new loans to delinquency-prone borrowers have been insured by taxpayers. The Lone Star deal heralds a new era that could boost the economy, offer higher returns to investment firms — and potentially lead to risks for the market.

According to the Bloomberg report, the underlying mortgages were originated over the past nine months by Caliber Home Loans, which is owned by Lone Star.

Last year, Bloomberg reported that Lone Star was seeking $1 billion for a fund to buy the riskiest portions of bonds backed by loans given to borrowers outside the realm of agency-affiliated lending.

The mortgages were to be originated by Caliber Home Loans, which announced that it would be offering four new non-agency lending products in an effort to help more potential borrowers get financing for a new home.

The four types of loans include: the “Fresh Start” program, Foreign Nationals, Non-Warrantable Condos and Non-Agency alternatives. The Fresh Start program specifically is designed to help borrowers who may have experienced a credit event but cannot afford a program in the marketplace that meets their needs as they re-establish a strong credit history.

According to the Bloomberg report, the mortgages on the underlying properties carry interest rates far higher than the current rate of 3.94% on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.

Again, from Bloomberg:

Credit scores average 688, compared with the minimum of 620 generally required by taxpayer-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Rates average 7.4%, with a small amount above 9.5%; they can rise, often after five years. Homeowners have about 25% equity in the properties. Their incomes were all documented, though sometimes via the use of bank statements, not pay stubs or tax returns.

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