Amherst won't bet on universal mortgage refinance program
There is a suggestion in mortgage finance that the Treasury Department will roll out a program for every borrower to refinance into a 4% mortgage. In a research report, Amherst Securities explains that the chance of such a plan coming to fruition is small. In fact, should such a program go through, the risk to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would actually increase, not decrease because of the chance the new loans will drag on the government-sponsored enterprises. In such a case, "Freddie and Fannie would lose their rep and warrant rights on the old loans and would probably need to assume all the rep and warrant risk on these new mortgages," Amherst said in an email. A potential solution to this problem would be for Fannie and Freddie to waive all reps and warrants on the new loan done under the government's Home Affordable Refinancing Program, or HARP, in exchange for a higher guarantee fee. Further, refinancing would reduce the GSEs assets, the opposite of conservatorship, which is designed to conserve assets, Amherst notes. A new program sanctioned by the administration on refinancings, should it happen, will likely come via HARP. Even if there is no universal program, Amherst predicts changes will come to HARP, considering how far short the refinancing initiative fell in its original goals. Initially the Obama administration expected to make the program available to 4 million to 5 million homeowners. In fact, the number has actually been 810,084 through May. Despite the doubts, Amherst believes such a program is possible. "According to the originators we have talked to, an appraisal is necessary in a substantial number of cases, and adds to the “hassle factor” of the refi," they said. "Greater (or complete) reliance on the automated valuation models of Fannie and Freddie would eliminate this issue." After appraisals, a new title search will add costs to the refi, but this expense can also likely be managed, for a price. "Perhaps instead of a full title search, a more limited refi title search could be amended to the original title search," the report states. "Perhaps there is a better way to conduct title search, (where) one company handles all HARP refinance title searches at a reduced cost." Write to Jacob Gaffney. Follow him on Twitter @jacobgaffney.