While You Weren’t Looking: FHA-Insured Jumbos on the Move

While the financial press — including HW — and others in the industry have been focused on the new market for so-called conforming jumbos at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, none other than Ginnie Mae went ahead and published their first “FHA jumbo” pools on April 15. Industry insiders say that the FHA loans have been moving, while activity on higher-limit jumbos at either GSE has yet to register on anyone’s radar screen. Under the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, The Federal Housing Administration received a huge shot in the arm when it saw its lending limits boosted, along with those of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. All three are temporarily authorized to purchase mortgages up to $729,500 in certain high cost areas — and while activity thus far has been slow, FHA jumbos have clearly been the first to market as borrowers have flocked to the revitalized government-sponsored lending program. Ginnie published its guidelines and multi-issuer pool types for the higher balance loans on March 6. The first pools under the new lending limits included three jumbo conforming 30-year fixed rate pools with an issue date of April 1 (pool prefix is JM, for jumbo), led by a $10.9 million issue offering a 5.5 percent coupon; according to eMBS, a provider of mortgage data and analytics, the pool’s collateral is 43 percent in California with average original loan (AOL) amount of $436,907. Other pools include $3.4 million of a 6 percent coupon, 45 percent in New Jersey; and $2.8 million of a 6.5 percent coupon, 30 percent in Washington, DC. Small activity compared to the dollar volume other issues, to be sure, but also proof that the market for jumbo conforming loans is beginning to finally move forward. The FHA was — prior to the emergence of private-party subprime — the traditional vehicle for subprime lending and first-time homebuyers, established during the Depression era to help stabilize a faltering housing market. As the current housing crisis has rolled on, Bush administration officials and Congressional leaders alike have looked to revitalize the program. That revitalization effort has paid dividends, and quickly. Ginnie Mae said last week that MBS issuance increased to nearly $15 billion during March — it’s highest issuance rate since November of 2003. For the first quarter, issuance totaled $39.1 billion, more than doubling year-ago volume. “Ginnie Mae has seen a steady increase in our issuance since October of last year,” said Theodore B. Foster, senior vice president for MBS at Ginnie Mae. “As the mortgage credit market tightened, and the subprime mortgage market and the private label MBS market collapsed, investors began moving toward the safety and stability of Ginnie Mae MBS, just as borrowers began moving back to the security of government loans — particularly Federal Housing Administration loans.” Ginnie Mae also securitizes loans from the Veteran’s Administration — one government program that, oddly enough, was left out of the Economic Stimulus bill. Congressional legislators have proposed an amendment that would see VA lending limits raised to match those of Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie.

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