Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic and before that, the top economist at Freddie Mac, has died. He was 66.
At CoreLogic, Nothaft headed the office of the economist, providing analysis, commentary and forecasting trends in global real estate, insurance and mortgage markets. Prior to joining CoreLogic in 2015, Nothaft had a nearly 30-year career at Freddie Mac, where he was most recently the chief economist.
“When I arrived at Freddie Mac in 2012 he was a long-established major name in mortgage research,” said Donald Layton, who was CEO of Freddie Mac from 2012 to 2018. “It was always a pleasure to work with him because he was truly a nice individual.”
Before joining Freddie Mac, Nothaft was an economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, where he served in the mortgage and consumer finance section and assisted Gov. Henry Wallich.
During his career, Nothaft often was called upon to provide expert commentary on national television and at industry trade conferences, explaining the workings of the housing market for both industry-focused and general audiences.
“Most people knew Frank as one of the nation’s premier housing economists,” said Robin Wachner, a CoreLogic spokesperson. “He was also an outstanding leader and one of those extraordinary people who was loved and admired by everyone who was lucky enough to know him.”
From 2010 to 2015, he was on the faculty at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, where he taught urban real estate economics. He was a past president of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association and served on the board of directors of the Financial Management Association.
Nothaft was well-liked by fellow economists studying the housing market, as well as his colleagues, who described him as straightforward and prizing accuracy. But he was also known for his quirky sense of style.
“He was the best housing market analyst in the business, able to clearly and concisely convey information that helped our industry understand the current market and make decisions to prepare for the future,” said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “And Frank had an inimitable style, both in terms of his presentations and his ever-present bow tie.”
Richard Koss, a former Fannie Mae official, said Nothaft “was devoted to accuracy and saying what he saw, not sugar-coating or making things look worse than they appear.
“You always knew that when you heard or saw what he wrote that you got his best view on something, you never had to think of it in the context of where he was working,” Koss said.
In 2021, more than a decade after observing the Great Recession from his perch at Freddie Mac, Nothaft spoke of lessons learned in that time, during an interview with an undergraduate student at Duke University.
“You want to have good, responsible underwriting conditions at play,” Nothaft said. “That’s one problem that occurred in 2005 and 2006 with the deterioration of underwriting standards.
“I think also important is having, whether it’s with external groups or internally, more of a healthy dialogue and culture to voice different opinions,” Nothaft said. “Not everyone’s going to agree, but you need to be, with staff internally, and in dialogue with external groups, to [be able to] feel like you can express what you see and what you believe in.”
James Kleimann contributed reporting.