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The Eye of the Storm

Here is the difference between what has happened and what is about to happen.

In the past 12 months, most of what has failed has been fairly standard, though sub-prime, adjustable rate mortgages. You get a $180k mortgage for a $200k home and get an adjustable interest rate that resets every year after 5 years or so. You paid the standard principle + interest + escrow. What has happened is the first bunch of homeowners who’s mortgages reset could no longer afford the new payments. Some refinanced, but a good many went into foreclosure. The foreclosures put downward pressure on home prices. When this happened, even fewer people could refinance their homes because the values of the home often fell below the amount of the first mortgage. The vicious cycle started and that’s how we got where we are today.

Keep in mind that 12 months of that have brought down the largest investment banks in the country, put Bank of America, CitiGroup, and Wells Fargo on the ropes, and forced mergers of banks that never would have happened in a normal climate.

Here is the fun part.

With an Option ARM loan you have the option to make partial principle and partial interest payments. What you don’t pay gets amortized back into the principle of the loan up to a maximum of 115% or 125% of the original loan value or once 5 years has been reached. Many people pick these types of loans because it was the only way they could afford the monthly payments on their McMansion. In the meantime, property values have fallen across the board making refinancing out of these loans virtually impossible. Once these loans are recast (similar to the resetting of the interest rate in an ARM), the home owner goes from making a minimum payment that doesn’t even cover interest to a fully amortizing payment that covers all interest AND principal. And remember, principal is 15-25% higher than the original loan balance. Most people with these types of loans also put no money down or got a second mortgage to pay for their money down. They owe 25% more than their home was valued at way back at peak housing prices. The payments jump to full amortization anywhere between 80% to 200% of the old house payment.

Now, with all that in mind. Lets look at the numbers.

The end of 2008 was the time period where the highest dollar value of standard ARM loans was due to reset. At the peak, about 36 billion dollars per month in loans reset. There is a lag with standard ARMs because the payment shock is anywhere between 0% and 20% increase in monthly payment. Many families can handle it for a short while before they start falling behind.

May/June 2009 is when the Option ARMs begin to reset. This wave has 3 small dips. The peak of the first wave hits us in December 2009 and reaches $25b per month in recasts. It drops off for a bit then shoots up to $30b a month in recasts around June 2010. Drops back to $20b per month in December 2010 and then surges to $40 billion per month in June 2011. Now when these loans recast, there will be a lot less lag time because the monthly payment will jump anywhere from 80% to 200% of what the homeowner is used to paying. With no way to pay and no ability to refinance, homeowners will throw in the towel much faster.

Are you ready for the punchline brought to us by Dr. Housing Bubble?

As of December of 2008, a stunning 28% of option ARMs were delinquent or in some stage of foreclosure. This is before any recasts have even kicked in!

Remember, the banks have already failed and consolidated from just the first mess. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup are already dangling on the cliff.

Who’s next?

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