BofA looks to extend mortgage lending in certain key markets
Bank of America (BAC) Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan says the distressed housing market is seeing improvements in pockets around the nation, especially where there is an influx of investor cash mixed with a quickened ability to repossess properties. These markets are strengthening to the extent his bank would be willing to lend mortgages without the help of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac The CEO of one of the world's largest banks said housing issues cannot be separated from the overall economy. The rosy outlook, Moynihan reminds, is not shared by all markets. He sees national housing activity bouncing along the bottom after experiencing a drop in mortgage originations following the expiration of the 2010 homebuyer tax credit. Still, Moynihan, speaking at a BofA Merrill Lynch conference in New York, said there are differences in regulatory schemes and in foreclosure and non-foreclosure states – all of which slow down or speed up the rate at which a distressed property is moved. "What we are seeing is when we get a hold of a property it moves as fast now as it ever moved. The issue is how long does it take for you to get a hold of a property," Moynihan said. "There is tons of investor money coming in. When you have the ability to get those properties, you are seeing market by market those improvements come. The process has been slower and slower in some places, but in places like Arizona and California, we are seeing it move through." Moynihan said BofA is setting up the framework for a mortgage lending world without the back-stop of government-sponsored enterprises. "We are prepared to run the business in a way where we can control our destiny and our customers even if we have to use our balance sheet to do it," he said. When discussing legacy mortgage servicing issues, Moynihan noted BofA has reduced its number of serious mortgage delinquencies, with that figure continuing to drop over the course of the past three quarters. The BofA CEO said three years after tightening underwriting standards on new mortgages, the bank is noticing tangible benefits. "You can see the delinquencies are much lower than what we have projected in tougher times," Monyihan pointed out. He says solid underwriting in the wake of the housing bust is proving effective, as delinquencies on post-2008 mortgages are relatively low. "The underwriting since then has been substantial down payments, substantial documentation and substantial debt to income payments," Moynihan said. Write to Kerri Panchuk.