I understand Governor Schwarzenegger uses Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) as one of his personal investment options.
Rex Sinquefield and David Booth are co-founders of DFA and David Booth is Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Investment Officer of DFA. In 2004 then Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed David Booth to the California Commission on Jobs and Economic Growth. In August of 2006 David Booth announced that significant operations and 25 employees of DFA, would be moving to Austin, TX. Mr. Booth cited several reasons for the decision to move to Austin among them a more central location, good transportation services and connections, the quality of the workforce, the desirability of the area as a place to live and work, and the availability of economically priced workspace.
An August 2006 announcement in the Austin-American Statesman provides more insight into the motivation for DFA’s decision to move to Austin:
Sinquefield retired as co-chairman last year and moved to Missouri but remains on the board. In an April interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sinquefield said he was helping the company with the move and that rising costs in California played a role in the decision to relocate. The region "is becoming a third-world country with increasing tax rates," Sinquefield said. "We're moving the company to Austin, Texas, where there is no personal income tax."
Since his retirement Rex Sinquefield has been very active in politics in Missouri. He has founded an influential public policy institute named The Show-Me Institute , and he has established a Chess Club in St. Louis.
In November of 2006 David Booth donated 300 million dollars to his Alma Mater, the University of Chicago - Graduate School of Business.
In June of 2003 another high profile and economically savvy business left California - citing high taxes and high cost of living / employment costs as reasons for the move. Long time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, Arthur Laffer moved his La Jolla California based economic consulting firm, Laffer Associates, to Nashville, TN
Does fewer foreclosure notices being filed mean that the foreclosure process is (temporarily) becoming even slower than it has been in the past? Does it mean that the homes of mortgage borrowers who are “underwater” and have decided to use the ‘strategic default’ strategy are not becoming part of the shadow inventory?(2) Does it mean that borrowers who have fallen on hard economic circumstances are not continuing to squat in the homes they financed with the easy mortgages they were able to get when economic conditions seemed better? Are such borrowers still squatting, biding their time and saving money, until the foreclosure notice comes and the marshal forces them out of the home? Does fewer foreclosures notices being filed mean that defaulted squatters will have even longer to save money (by not paying their mortgages) before the foreclosure notice is filed and marshal forces them to leave the home in which they are squatting?
Is it possible that filing foreclosure notices has slowed because of seasonal factors? Home purchases normally decline significantly over the holidays (during the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays and past the New Years Holiday). If you held the mortgage on a defaulted residence would you want that residence vacant for three or four months until the Spring home buying season begins. Is it possible that the large mortgage servicers and investors [like the Government’s GSA’s, large banks and public and private pension plans] are concerned about the public relations ‘fallout’ from continuing foreclosures, at a high rate, during the holiday season? Is it possible that mortgage lenders are delaying foreclosures so they can digest their past losses on foreclosures, and hopefully offset future losses on foreclosures against future investment revenue from other asset classes and from fee income? [Are defaulted, but not yet foreclosed homes, still “the pig in python”? (see note below)]
It seems that filing foreclosure notices is an activity which the holders of the mortgage investment can control, or ‘time’ - depending on a number of factors some of which can benefit them. As, the number and the speed of foreclosure filings varies, watch very closely for changes in the shadow inventory.
1. Foreclosure Filings Fall – But Not in All States By Teresa (Real Estate) at MSN - Pub. October 11, 2012, at: http://realestate.msn.com/blogs/listedblogpost.aspx?post=89cc9dfd-19e4-48c2-b...
2. For a definition of the shadow inventory see the third paragraph of the October 9, 2012 article, CoreLogic Reports Shadow Inventory Continues to Decline in July at: http://www.corelogic.com/about-us/news/corelogic-reports-shadow-inventory-continues-to-decline-in-july-2012.aspx
CoreLogic estimates the current stock of properties in the shadow inventory, also known as pending supply, by calculating the number of properties that are seriously delinquent, in foreclosure and held as real estate owned (REO) by mortgage servicers but not currently listed on multiple listing services (MLSs). Roll rates are the transition rates of loans from one state of performance to the next. Beginning with this report, cure rates are factored in as well to capture the rise in foreclosure timelines and further enhance the accuracy of the shadow inventory analysis. Transition rates of “delinquency to foreclosure” and “foreclosure to REO” are used to identify the currently distressed non-listed properties most likely to become REO properties. Properties that are not yet delinquent but may become delinquent in the future are not included in the estimate of the current shadow inventory. Shadow inventory is typically not included in the official metrics of unsold inventory.
NOTE: The pig in the python, see:
If you want to understand why the shadow inventory is growing do a key word search on the Wall Street Journal article, “Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule” by Susan Pulliam & Tom McGinty (2)
Under current accounting rules, banks and other mortgage investors are reluctant to complete a foreclosure or a loan modification because the completion of a foreclosure or modification transaction forces the revaluation of the mortgage asset on the financial books of bank’s, mortgage investor’s or Government Sponsored Enterprises (think bank loan loss reserves). And, banks and other investors would rather have a strategic defaulter, or a squatter in default, than have a vacant foreclosed home because the squatter provides some security from vandalism and 'stripping', and because the squatter continues to be liable for property taxes, HOA fees and municipal assessments.
Unemployment is high and loan qualification standards are very restrictive, so the banks have a significantly reduced opportunity to sell foreclosed homes, so why rush to foreclose.
Stay tuned for the outcome of the investigations of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS). What institutions came-up with the concept of MERS and provided the funding for the start-up of MERS? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each provided 2 million $ in seed money to create MERS, then they invited the largest mortgage investment banks to join in the MERS process.(3)
I watched the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives hearings on problems in the mortgage industry last week. It was truly ironic to see Senators and Congressional Representatives scolding and badgering witnesses about the problems in the mortgage crises. It would seem those in Congress don’t understand how they helped to create and fuel the mortgage and real estate bubble by years of policies they endorsed and encouraged.(4)
Committees in The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives held hearings on problems in the mortgage industry and problems in the mortgage modification effort last week. Most of the testifiers commented that a general problem in foreclosures and loan modifications was a mis-alignment of incentives. They also mentioned three other more specific issues:
(1) Most Mortgage servicers are ill-suited to the task of underwriting a modification. They were set up as operations designed to process and allocate payments, not to underwrite or modify loans.
(2) Mortgage servicers have monetary motivation to keep the original loan on the books as long as possible (even while appearing to work on a foreclosure). This is because fees and penalties, which represent income to the servicing entity, accrue while the loan is being modified.
(3) Investors in mortgage notes have little incentive to approve a HAMP modification (or any other modification for that matter) if it creates a loss in the net present value of their note, and most servicers and other witnesses testifying mentioned that mortgage investors have not yet really embraced the loan modification process.
The change to mark-to-market accounting for certain classes of financial assets (GAAP) has been delayed by Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) - with pressure from the U.S. Congress and bank lobbyists (see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124396078596677535.html). So, the necessity to actually account for these bank assets' true market value is currently suspended.
If a mortgage owner is a bank and the bank forecloses, the process for re-pricing the asset begins. And, the amount of the loss on the asset would then reduce the calculated bank reserves and force the regulators to require the bank to add more reserves. Under present market conditions this would not be a good thing for the bank, or for the U.S. Government. (Under present conditions banks which could not raise more reserve assets would be forced into FDIC receivership). And, if banks actually began to foreclose rapidly on all borrowers-in-default the calls for Government Sponsored Agency (GSA) loan insurance payoffs would further complicate the bail-out of the GSA's. Also, the demand for private mortgage insurance payoffs would put further stress on private mortgage insurers and impose additional stress on the financial system in general (and probably require private insurers to increase their required reserves).
Another reason banks might avoid foreclosing on a borrower-in-default is that judges are becoming a bit cantankerous. Judges have begun to force loan modifications, mandate cram-downs, and in the absence of good physical documentation proving a bank or investor actually owns the loan, some judges have even awarded property to the (supposed) borrower when the loan documentation is missing, flawed or incomplete.
It seems that the rush to originate loans, slice-and-dice loan tranches, construct CMO derivatives, track ownership, and re-register frequently traded CMO's (in the electronic registration system) led some necessary loan details, and even some complete documentation, to "go missing". So banks and investors are beginning to see foreclosure as a risky and potentially expensive option. (see: 10/24/09 NYT article by Gretchen Morgensen titled, "If Lenders Say 'The Dog Ate Your Mortgage' " at> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/business/economy/25gret.html )
Another subtlety, as long as the bank allows the borrower-in-default to stay in the home the mortgage investor (bank or CMO investor) is not as greatly exposed to losses from theft, vandalism and gross depreciation of real estate value due to non-maintenance of the property.
Also, by not foreclosing on borrowers-in-default the lender avoids becoming the owner of the property and thus avoids direct liability for property taxes, HOA Fees, and some of the more recently imposed municipality assessments levied against investors who now own foreclosed property (see: http://www.dlapiper.com/miami-dade_foreclosure_ordinances/ for another example see mosquito abatement fees in some areas of California - Indio, Palm Springs, Stockton, Mountain House, etc.)
If the "shadow inventory" came to the market all at once demand would be even further overwhelmed by supply causing even more significant price erosion.
It’s logical . . . perhaps corrupt, but logical.
1. See CoreLogic.com at: http://www.corelogic.com/search.aspx?q=shadow+inventory
2. The Case-Shiller S&P Home Price Index is published on the last Tuesday of the month with a two month time lag in reporting for data gathering and data analysis, at: http://www.standardandpoors.com/indices/sp-case-shiller-home-price-indices/en...
3. Also see, YouTube video The Impact of The Delay in Implementing FAS#157 at:
4. And, watch the YouTube video The Short Sale Conundrum - Mortgage Servicers’ Misaligned Incentives at:
5. Re: Was the strategy for delaying the pain learned during Japan's 'Lost Decade'? “Geithner worked for Kissinger Associates in Washington for three years and then joined the International Affairs division of the U.S. Treasury Department in 1988. He went on to serve as an attaché at the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo.” From Wikipedia, Timothy Geithner at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Geithner
6. Watch a brief segment of Georgetown Law Professor Adam Levitin's Congressional testimony titled, "Regulators Don't Want to Know" at:
Part of the problem lies in changes in mortgage processing over the past few decades. Fannie and Freddie rolled out automated-underwriting systems in the mid-1990s that allowed lenders to punch borrower data into computer systems in order to receive faster approvals or denials.The mortgage bust highlighted weaknesses. Fannie and Freddie did few upfront reviews of loans that they purchased; instead, they screened some of those that went bad, forcing banks to buy back any with obvious signs of negligence or fraud.After the meltdown, the mortgage giants began hiring armies of auditors—called "bounty hunters" by bank executives—to conduct detailed reviews of loan files to spot errors that could justify a put-back.deja vu
I commented on an interesting article published September 14, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, How Greenspan Misread the Risks at Fannie and Freddie. It’s an article based upon an excerpt (written by James Hagerty) from his new book The Fateful History of Fannie Mae: New Deal Birth to Mortgage Crisis Fall By James R. Hagerty.
In December of 2011 the SEC filed lawsuits against several former executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the allegations in both of the two lawsuits is that former executives of Fannie and Freddie mis-categorized mortgage loans that were being bought by Fannie and Freddie and that they failed to inform investors and Fannie and Freddie’s regulator [The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight] of the true number (percentage and value) of Sub-Prime and Alt-A loans they purchased.
So, it’s not that shocking that most people who believed what Fannie and Freddie were telling them didn’t know of the significant default risk.
Only people like Michael Burry(2) Laurence Fink(3) John Paulson(4) and perhaps Stanford Kurland(5) who actually studied (or were aware of) the progressively diminishing mortgage qualification standards as the bubble formed, and who studied (or were aware of) the actual mortgage borrower income statistics, were prescient enough to become alarmed about Fannie and Freddie’s exposure to default risk.
Based upon what Fannie and Freddie were claiming as their mortgage loan quality, It should be no surprise that Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary, John Snow and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight [OFEO] were more concerned about the impact of credit rate risk and accounting fraud at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than they seem to have been about default risk.(6)
(1) Reference SEC Website SEC CHARGES FORMER FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC EXECUTIVES WITH SECURITIES FRAUD.
(2) Reference, Betting on the Blind Side By Michael Lewis – pub. Vanity Fair Magazine | April 2010.
(3) Reference, Inside the Trillionaires Club at BlackRock pub. Forbes Magazine August 17, 2009. From the article:
LESSON 2: When investments get complex, do your homework:
. . . In late 2006 the company developed a model that put a lower, more realistic number on the incomes subprime borrowers were claiming on their "no doc" loans. The projections were shocking: BlackRock figured that when the loans reset to their new, higher rates in a couple of years, most borrowers would be spending more than half their real incomes on mortgage payments. Foreseeing an avalanche of defaults, BlackRock dumped subprime bonds in early 2007 when the prices were still lofty.
(4) See, John Paulson, Trader Made Billions on Sub-Prime By Gregory Zuckerman pub. Wall Street Journal January 15, 2008.
(5) See, Stanford Kurland - Former Countrywide No.2 Sees Opportunity in Troubled Mortgages By Matthew Padilla Orange County Register - June 10, 2008. From the article:
Q. How did this venture come about?
A. I was somewhat in a state of retirement. I left Countrywide in 2006 after 27 years. From the sidelines, I was watching the mortgage market meltdown and was in communication with associates of mine over what it was going to take to improve or revitalize the mortgage market. Wall Street firms were reaching out to me on whether I had an interest in participating with them. I got a call from the chairman of BlackRock, Laurence Fink, who asked if I would meet a group of executives who were talking about how to address issues in the mortgage market, and they were working with another company (Highfields Capital Management).
I was very receptive to talking to Larry Fink. We had grown up together and have been friends since grade school days.
Q. Where did you and Mr. Fink grow up?
A. We grew up in Van Nuys. That’s the valley.
(6) See, YouTube video-clip, Timeline: George Bush, John McCain Warn Democrats of Housing Crisis, at:
In this PBS NewsHour video-clip aired January 21, 1998 President Bill Clinton points to his accomplishment of having his 'regulators' force banks to grant loans to applicants to whom the banks would not have otherwise granted loans.
In this video-clip President Clinton, claims that 85% of the loans issued under the guidelines of the (then 20 plus year old) Community Reinvestment Act were issued during his first five years in office.
Is it any wonder that the GSE's, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, under direction from Clinton and his two administration's HUD Chairmen, Henry Cisneros, and later Andrew Cuomo, continued lowering the standards for loans they would purchase from mortgage originators?
And, is it any wonder that investment banking interests devised ways to 'package' large numbers of mortgage loans into "tranches" of different risk level in order to diversify the risk they were being pressured through regulatory mandate, and political persuasion, to accept?
Notice that Clinton mentions this activity was not necessarily an affirmative action or civil rights oriented activity, but rather that it had significant impact on the economy. . . .
See, The Community Reinvestment Act, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act
Bill Clinton's Drive to Increase Homeownership Went Way Too Far By Peter Coy -pub. in Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2/28/2008, at: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2008/02/clintons_...
Bill Clinton, Wanted For Crimes Against Our Economy By Jim Newman pub. 2/27/2012, at: http://kayleighmcenany.com/2012/02/27/jim-newman-bill-clinton-wanted-for-crimes-against-our-economy/
Key words search for: Janet Reno threatens banks
Many people and much of the media are pointing to recent improvements in home prices as a sign that the single family home market is bottoming and starting to recover. It seems to me that an alternative way to look at recent changes in the housing market might be to look at things a bit differently.
How about reading the tea leaves this way:
Several institutional asset managers have convinced investors that buying single family homes ‘in-bulk’ and then renting the houses or flipping them is a good business that will provide better yields than most other investments currently available (in The Bernanke Economy). However, it seems the institutional asset managers that are doing this have ignored that single family home property management and single family home ‘flipping’ are generally not ‘scaleable’ activities. That is, the operational costs of single family property management and single family home 'flipping' are very high, and the activities involved usually cannot reach economies of scale.
Meanwhile, the media is reporting a recovering market in housing. And, some homeowners who have discretion about the timing of selling their homes make a discretionary decision not to list their home and to wait for a better price – because all indications and the media say home prices are rising. This reluctance to list reduces the LISTED inventory, which further creates the appearance of a recovering housing market.
Then, in a few months, the investors in the institutional funds that have purchased homes 'in-bulk' begin to realize the institutional managers are not reaping the expected returns and they begin to cash-out of the institutional home buying funds. This cashing-out forces the institutional funds to sell the homes they bought ‘in bulk’ at the best price they can get.
Many very smart institutional investors have mentioned the operational difficulty and lack of ‘scaleability’ as reasons bulk home buyers may not succeed at single family home property management and / or single family home ‘flipping’.
Private Equity Has Too Much Money to Spend on Homes By John Gittelsohn | pub. Bloomberg News - Jun 12, 2012: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-13/private-equity-has-too-much-money-to-spend-on-homes-mortgages.html
Institutional Investors Are Turning to Residential Foreclosures Investing in single-family rental market in its infancy By Arleen Jacobius | Pensions & Investments April 2, 2012: http://www.pionline.com/article/20120402/PRINTSUB/304029978
Insight: The Wall Street Gold Rush in Foreclosed Homes By Matthew Goldstein & Jenneifer Ablan - Forbes Magazine 3/20/2012, at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/20/us-usa-foreclosures-investors-idUSB...
Investors Flock to Housing Looking to Buy Thousands of Homes in Bulk By Morgan Brennan - Forbes Magazine 4/3/2012, at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/morganbrennan/2012/04/03/investors-flock-to-housing-aspiring-to-own-thousands-of-homes/
Och-Ziff Calls Top Of "REO-To-Rental", And Distressed Housing Demand, With Exit Of Landlord Business Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/17/2012 http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-10-17/och-ziff-calls-top-reo-rental-exit-landlord-business
The Housing Bet Warren Buffett Wishes He Could Make By Steve Shaefer pub. Forbes Markets 3/29/2012: http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveschaefer/2012/03/29/the-housing-bet-warren-buffett-wishes-he-could-make/#
Critics Question Investment Fund’s Sacramento Rental Venture By Hudson Sangree and Philip Reese Sacramento Bee – Monday April 8, 2013 http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/08/5323832/critics-question-investment-funds.htm
Lower Rates Push Yield Seekers to Higher Risk By A. Gary Shilling – Bloomberg News - Jan 29, 2013, at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-29/lower-rates-push-yield-seekers-to-higher-risk.html
Warren Buffett Says, “Buy Real Estate Now!” at the same time he mentions the problem of “scaleability” see video from CNBC Squawk Box pub. February 27, 2012: https://youtu.be/XOGP6hd0B24