Tag Archives: Freddie Mac

HOUSING AND AN ITEM OF TRIVIA

APRIL 19, 2023 – Let’s get the trivia out of the way. India has surpassed China in population. I didn’t know it was even close. Sort of reminds me of the day about 30 years ago when WalMart surpassed Sears and KMart (you youngsters are asking what is Sears and KMart 🙂 ) on the same day to become the #1 retailer. As for the housing market…
Freddie Mac said the 30-year mortgage rate declined for the 5th straight week – now at 6.27%. It is like pulling teeth to get it below 6%. But, regardless, it has been lower ever since the day I called the high last year.
According to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), home prices increased for the 3rd straight month. This follows monthly declines from July to December 2022. As I have noted many times, the market predicts the future 6 months out. As an aside, I heard an analyst today say the market does not predict the future. It is people like him that I need so I can have someone on the other side of my trades:)
So, in regard to housing, the market peaked in December 2021. Thus, it said the housing market should peak in June 2022. If you read my posts last June, you will see I was screaming that a top was occurring by the very minute.
After a 40% decline, the same indicator bottomed in June 2022. Thus, predicting a bottom for housing in December 2022. Is it coincidence that the AEI home price index bottomed in December and has gone up for 3 straight months? Sure, let’s call it coincidence:) As an aside, the same indicator is up 35% from its low.
This is a great lesson on how the market takes advantage of the public. At the end of 2021, the smart money cashed out and enjoyed a 40% decline in housing stock prices. All along, the public was hearing every day how strong the housing market was. Then, for the 2nd half of last year while the public was hearing how the housing market was crumbling due to rising interest rates, the smart money made 35% on housing stocks rising. It is such an easy game to play. As long as the public always follows the news…and it will.
So, remember, this Fall the news will change from being negative on housing to being positive. Suddenly, the public will have found a way to sell their houses that had a 4% mortgage rate and buy a house at a 7% mortgage rate. Remember, the market predicted that news today – 6 months before you hear it from the pundits. Also, this is not the first time in history that people owned homes with mortgages at x% and years later had to sell and buy a home at a mortgage rate of X+3%. People adjust. Just buy a lower price home! Everyone acts like this is the end of the world having mortgage rates 3% higher. It isn’t. The sun continues to come up in the East every day.
As I mentioned last year, the decline in housing prices would be less than expected because of a lack of inventory. According to Redfin, the number of listings has declined at a double-digit rate for 8 straight months! Geez, are there any homes for sale anywhere! According to the NAHB, 1/3 of homes for sale are new construction. The norm is 10%. Do you think the market knew that would be the case when they started buying housing stocks last June? Yes, of course.
I said last year the public and pundits would be baffled by home prices not declining much, if at all, while the average mortgage payment was up 50%. Logically, home prices need to decline 33% to keep the mortgage payment the same. That has not and will not happen.
All of the above is explained by Socionomics (not the same as socioeconomics). Thankfully, I started following Robert Prechter 43 years ago and watched him develop the Theory of Socionomics. No matter how much is published on the subject, the public just will never learn to do the opposite of what they have been doing for thousands of years. I am sure you can find Mr. Prechter’s books on the subject on Amazon, eBay, etc. If you want to change the way you look at everything, look into this subject.
Lastly, I want to mention an interesting conflict in indicators that will play out this year with one side or the other being wrong. The stock market bottomed last October (so 6 months later is right now and I saw a survey that said the public is the most pessimistic about the future that they have ever been….of course, if you follow the stock market you knew that would be the case 6 months in advance!). It is up about 20% from its lows. It continues to say no recession this year and, in fact, the economy should improve. Now, the opposite is occurring with the tightening credit market. Virtually ever recession has been preceded by banks tightening credit. This indicator is screaming for a 100% certain recession in the second half of this year. So, either the smart money is wrong or this indicator will fail this time. Something has to give. I bet on socionomics and the smart money (aka stock market). Which side are you betting on?
Til next time…
Shalom,
The Mann

JEREMY BAGOTT EXPOSES NPR AND FREDDIE MAC

FEBRUARY 24, 2023 – Mr. Bagott was kind of enough to give me permission to post his article to my blog. I could not say it any better than he has. The studies continue to pile up that PROVE there is no bias (systemic or otherwise) in the real estate appraisal industry. Of course, the Fake News Media and racist organizations put out misleading headlines to fool the masses. I hope you enjoy Mr. Bagott’s article.
Shalom,
The Mann
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Contact: Jeremy Bagott, MAI, AI-GRS
Tel: 805-794-0555
email: jbagott@gmail.com

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

FREDDIE’S SLANTED STUDY, NPR STORY RECALL NOTABLE ACADEMIC HOAX

VENTURA, Calif. (February 24, 2023) – Almost 30 years ago, Alan Sokal, now a professor of mathematics at University College London, perpetrated a memorable hoax. He submitted a pseudoscientific article to a cultural studies journal called Social Text. By design, his paper was strewn with nonsense. Titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” the article held that physical reality was merely a social construct.

The nation’s 80,000 state-licensed real property appraisers will recognize elements of Sokal’s hoax as crusaders — appointees at places like the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – perpetuate a false narrative that is weakening a critical guardrail in the nation’s $11 trillion mortgage market.

At the time of Sokal’s hoax, so-called “postmodernists” in higher education were waging a crusade against scientific objectivity. The “science wars” of the mid-1990s saw academics in the fields of cultural studies, comparative literature, media studies, cultural anthropology, feminist studies, and science and technology studies attacking scientists. Most in the former group knew almost nothing of the sciences they criticized.

Sokal’s aim was to see whether such a hoax paper would be published if it 1) sounded legitimate and 2) stoked the vanities and ideological preconceptions of the editors.

As professor Sokal predicted, his article gained publication in the 1996 spring/summer issue of Social Text, published by Duke University Press. His paper briefly became the toast of certain academic circles, but it was never peer-reviewed by an actual scientist.

Sokal quickly set the record straight in the May 1996 edition of the Lingua Franca journal in the article “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies.” He concluded that editors at the first publication ignored the required intellectual rigor of verification and “felt comfortable publishing an article on quantum physics without bothering to consult anyone knowledgeable in the subject.”

Fast-forward to September 2021. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac scoured 12 million appraisals between 2015 and 2020 and published a study that found the sales of homes in black- and Latino-majority census tracts were more likely to appraise below the negotiated sale price than sales of homes in white-majority tracts.

While appearing to reveal something sinister about the nation’s real property appraisers, buried in the report was the begrudging acknowledgment that the comparables selected by appraisers to value homes owned by people of various racial groups tended to be reconciled within a range that differed little from one another statistically.

Tucked well into the report was the recognition, “Appraisals for properties in Black and Latino tracts tend to be slightly closer to the lower end of the [comparable] range. But the report then conceded, “the average dollar impact is less than $500.”

An impact of $500 or less off the median U.S. home sales price of $428,700 around the time of the study represented a departure of about 0.1% or less. The amount fails to rise to even a rounding error. Analysts at the mortgage giant seemed to be grasping at straws to find something – anything – wrong with the appraisals but, as they conceded, couldn’t. Systemic bias, the study found, was a phantom issue.

So, instead, the study trumpeted a finding that 7.4% of appraisals in majority-white census tracts appraised below the property’s negotiated sale price, while 12.5% appraised below the negotiated sale price in black-majority census tracts with an even wider 15.4% gap for Latino-majority census tracts.

Since Freddie Mac concedes it found no problem with the valuations beyond a statistical aberration, its finding of a contract-price-vs.-actual-value gap points to a more complicated issue in which brokers in minority areas seem to be more likely to advise buyers to agree to values that were above market. Whether this is due to inexperienced buyers, inexperienced brokers representing them, a greater proportion of brokers conflicted by dual agency, sellers with unrealistic expectations, home sales kept out of MLS systems or the prevalence of so-called affinity schemes is anyone’s guess.
Freddie dishonestly left this question unacknowledged.

The 2007-2008 financial crisis exposed the degree to which low-income borrowers were preyed upon by bad actors. Fannie and Freddie drove the exploitation by buying or guaranteeing so-called Alt-A, negative-amortizing and stated-income mortgages that proved toxic to minority homeownership in communities from Modesto, California, to Hartford, Connecticut.

But back to Freddie’s study. On the heels of its release, editors at National Public Radio misreported the findings. NPR topped the online edition of its article with the headline, “Black and Latino Homeowners are About Twice as Likely as Whites To Get Low Appraisals.” The problem? Freddie never called the appraisals “low.”

While the Freddie Mac study finds no evidence of undervaluation, the NPR story about the study somehow does. NPR’s headline should have read, “Minority Buyers Twice as Likely to be Advised to Overbid on Homes.”

Both the Freddie Mac study, along with the misreported NPR story, were seized on by disrupters in government. This group is seeking to eliminate appraisals in federally related mortgages in a misguided attempt at erasing the racial wealth gap in America. It’s the equivalent of eliminating reading tests as a way to solve illiteracy. Quietly stoking these fires have been the nonbank lenders, the fintechs, the homebuilders and the Realtors, who have been trying to weaken appraisers for decades related more to issues like bonuses, commissions and the transference of risk to the U.S. taxpayer than ideology.

The mortgage giant, which is under federal conservatorship, is no doubt being pressured by its regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to play ball and adhere to Executive Order 13985, an early Biden administration directive titled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” Freddie’s study appears to have been shaded by an overarching need to find something.

Commenting on the study was Michael Bradley, a senior vice president at Freddie Mac. “An appraisal falling below the contracted sale price may allow a buyer to renegotiate with a seller,” he told NPR.

But then he seemed to come out in favor of minority buyers overpaying (and overborrowing) if that’s what it takes, “it could also mean families might miss out on the full wealth-building benefits of homeownership or may be unable to get the financing needed to achieve the American dream in the first place.”

Or perhaps Bradley was just fuzzy on which party in the transaction would be experiencing the American dream and the full wealth-building benefits of homeownership – the seller receiving a double-digit premium above the home’s market value or the buyer, who appears to be at a disadvantage in Bradley’s world view.

Professor Sokal no doubt saw the publication of his hoax paper with some degree of vindication and ironic satisfaction. Appraisers, who have been maligned by Freddie’s study and NPR’s incompetence in reporting it, are unsatisfied and haven’t yet been vindicated.

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Jeremy Bagott is a real estate appraiser and former newspaperman. His most recent book, “The Ichthyologist’s Guide to the Subprime Meltdown,” is a concise almanac that distills the cataclysmic financial crisis of 2007-2008 to its essence. This pithy guide to the upheaval includes essays, chronologies, roundups and key lists, weaving together the stories of the politics-infused Freddie and Fannie; the doomed Wall Street investment banks Lehman and Bear Stearns; the dereliction of duty by the Big Three credit-rating services; the mayhem caused by the shadowy nonbank lenders; and the massive government bailouts. It provides a rapid-fire succession of “ah-hah” moments as it lays out the meltdown, convulsion by convulsion.

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AEI’s THOUGHTS ON THE PAVE REPORT

MARCH 25, 2022 – Below is the American Enterprise Institute’s thoughts on the blatantly racist PAVE Report that came out this week. AEI says it better than I ever could. So, I have no comments to add. Well, I did send them thanks for spelling White with a W. Finally, someone with integrity to avoid race baiting.
Shalom,
The Mann
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Comments on PAVE’s “Action Plan to Advance Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap by Addressing Mis-valuations for Families and Communities of Color”
Reprinted below is a response from the AEI Housing Center to yesterday’s release of the PAVE report on appraiser bias:
On March 23rd, the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE), composed of thirteen federal agencies and offices, released its report entitled “Action Plan to Advance Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap by Addressing Mis-valuations for Families and Communities of Color.”
Commentary on PAVE’s conclusion:
PAVE concluded that “Homeownership is often hindered by inequities within current home lending and appraisal processes, which research shows disproportionately impact people in communities of color.”
As noted in the Executive Summary, the report largely rests on three studies for its conclusion: (i) a report by the Brookings Institution, (ii) a note by Freddie Mac, and (iii) a blog post by FHFA.[1] In our work, we have issued lengthy critiques that discredit the first two studies (see our rebuttal to Brookings and to Freddie Mac) and now take the opportunity to respond to the FHFA study.[2] Here is a summary of our findings:
The Brookings and Freddie Mac studies are not based on rigorous data analysis. Most importantly, they conflate race with socio-economic status (SES), i.e. income, buying power, marriage rates, credit scores, etc. Race-based gaps found in the Brookings and Freddie Mac studies either entirely or substantially disappear when adjusting for differences in SES. Furthermore, our analyses show that similar gaps are present in majority White or White-only tracts across different SES levels, raising serious questions regarding a race-based explanation.[3] We also addressed a rebuttal from the Brookings authors to our critique. We found that Perry and Rothwell’s (2021) rebuttal to our critique supported our claim of omitted variable bias, failed to rebuke our methodology, and never addressed our case studies. We also presented solutions based on our findings. The Freddie Mac study took pains to state that its research was both “exploratory” and “preliminary”. Yet PAVE accepted Freddie Mac’s findings at face-value, even though research by Fannie Mae provides a likely, non-race based explanation for the valuation discrepancy found by Freddie Mac. It is worth noting that Fannie Mae’s explanation castes a favorable light on the appraisal industry.
This conflation by both Brookings and Freddie Mac is of critical importance. While there is agreement regarding the symptoms observed by PAVE–racial and ethnic differences in homeownership rates, financial returns of owning a home, and median wealth–ascertaining the causes and workable solutions requires a competition of ideas.[4] PAVE excluded research that was inconvenient or inconsistent with the desired narrative and conclusion.[5]
The FHFA blog post, which we have not addressed until now, stated that in their “review of appraisals, we have observed references to race and ethnicity in the ‘Neighborhood Description’ and other free-form text fields in the appraisal form.” FHFA concluded that the use of such references is evidence of bias as the “racial and ethnic composition of the neighborhood should never be a factor that influences the value of a family’s home” and released 16 specific examples.
While we all can agree with FHFA’s statement that “racial and ethnic composition of the neighborhood should never be a factor that influences the value of a family’s home”, the blog post failed to provide any specifics as to the frequency of such occurrences. It only stated:
From millions of appraisals submitted annually, a keyword search resulted in thousands of potential race-related flags. Individual review finds many instances of keywords to be false positives, but the following are [16] examples of references when the appraiser has clearly included race or other protected class references in the appraisal.
Without more information, one is unable to discern whether this is evidence of a few bad apples or systemic behavior. This is made all the more problematic given that there is other evidence showing no systemic appraisal bias. Unfortunately, PAVE ignored that body of research, to wit:
AEI Housing Center (2021) found that racial bias by appraisers on refinance loans is uncommon and not systemic. To evaluate the existence of bias, the AEI Housing Center assembled a unique dataset with over 240,000 loans for which we knew the race of the borrowers.
Ambrose et al. (2021) concluded that “contrary to media allegations, our statistical analysis found that racial bias by appraisers on refinance loans is uncommon and not systemic.”[6]
Fannie Mae (2022) concluded that for refinance applications “Black borrowers refinancing their home on average received a slightly lower appraisal value relative to automated valuation models” and that “the frequency of ‘undervaluation’ did not have a notable racial pattern.”[7]Interestingly, Fannie Mae (2022) also rebuked the methodological approach in Freddie Mac’s research note that was cited by PAVE as one of the three main studies.[8]
Our conclusion is that PAVE has misdiagnosed the problem.[9] PAVE proposed 21 agency actions. It is highly questionable that these will address racial and ethnic differences in homeownership rate, financial returns of owning a home, or median wealth. In some cases, they may make these differences worse or take the pressure off in finding effective solutions. It also must be noted that HUD, and its predecessors have played a major role in perpetuating segregation and racial wealth disparities.[10] This alone should give pause to any objective reader of the PAVE report.
Rather than PAVE’s finding of “inequities within current home lending and appraisal processes, which research shows disproportionately impact people in communities of color” the real culprit are inequities in SES, which PAVE acknowledges when it states that “[m]uch of the gap in rates of homeownership can be traced to socio-economic factors that differ on average between Black and white homeowners.” While lower SES certainly reflects a legacy of past racism and lingering racial bias, which leaves Blacks at a large income and wealth disadvantage relative to most Whites, PAVE should have addressed this in its policy recommendations. Thus, the PAVE Action Plan, by misdiagnosing the causes of the racial gap, will likely lead to unintended consequences as the Action Plan does not address the root problem.
We agree with PAVE that we ought to support opportunities for income and wealth growth among lower-income households. However, we should address the root cause for lower SES, and not unsubstantiated claims of systemic bias and racism in the housing finance sector.
Based on an objective diagnosis of symptoms and causes using rigorous data analysis, we propose the following solutions:
The housing policy solutions are:
Building generational wealth through sustainable homeownership for low SES households by reducing leverage for aspiring low-income home buyers.
Increasing supply and reducing income stratification through Light Touch Density.
Promoting Walkable Oriented Development in existing neighborhoods with a mix of residential and commercial properties.
Other policy solutions, which might be explored, are:[11]
Encouraging two parents in households with children (single-parent households have been found to be a significant SES factor by a wide ranch of academic researchers).
Enacting occupational licensing reforms and allowing small businesses to be run out of one’s home (this has been found to be a significant barrier to low SES households).
More economical childcare by rolling back burdensome government regulations (childcare costs are a significant barrier to gainful employment by low SES households).
Real school choice for access to quality elementary and secondary education (racial and ethnic minorities would benefit greatly from real school choice).
Improving access to technical and apprenticeship training (this would open up access by low SES households to these well-paying jobs).
Encouraging state and local governments to address public investment disparities relating to minority and lower income neighborhoods.
Recognizing the importance of SES factors is key to fashioning appropriate public and private responses. A misdiagnosis that focuses on other factors will not address the root problem and could potentially lead to unintended consequences. We must be mindful that many public policies aimed at addressing racial discrimination have had unintended consequences that have done substantial harm to low-income households generally, and minority households in particular.

Footnotes:
[1] Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE), Action Plan to Advance Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap by Addressing Mis-valuations for Families and Communities of Color, March 24, 2022, pp. 2-3.
[2] Despite the AEI Housing Center having undertaken a significant body of research on the topic of racial bias in housing finance over a course of years and notwithstanding efforts to engage with PAVE and some of its members, we were unable to engage with PAVE and our work was not mentioned in the report. Yet, PAVE stated that “Over the past 180 days, the Task Force has undertaken a collaborative and comprehensive approach toward identifying actions to address appraisal bias. This approach involved extensive consultation with subject matter experts and leaders across industry, academia, trade and civil rights groups, and government.”
[3] The same critique to the Brookings paper also applies to research by Howell and Korver-Glenn (2021) and a recent Redfin post on the same topic.
[4] The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents stated this concept best over 125 years ago: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” https://news.wisc.edu/sifting-and-winnowing-turns-125/
[5] This goes back to when President Biden in his January 26, 2021 “Memorandum on Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies” for the Secretary of HUD cited as fact “a persistent undervaluation of properties owned by families of color.” Thus, PAVE would need to conform to the President’s stated narrative, notwithstanding strong evidence to the contrary. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/26/memorandum-on-redressing-our-nations-and-the-federal-governments-history-of-discriminatory-housing-practices-and-policies/
[6] Ambrose, Brent W., James Conklin, N. Edward Coulson, Moussa Diop, and Luis A. Lopez. “Does Appraiser and Borrower Race Affect Valuation?” Available at SSRN 3951587 (2021).
[7] Williamson, Jake and Mark Palim. “Appraising the Appraisal: A closer look at divergent appraisal values for Black and white borrowers refinancing their home.” (2022).
[8] In particular, Fannie Mae wrote that “We chose to study refinance applications, as opposed to home purchase applications, because the appraiser in a refinance transaction typically interacts directly with the homeowner (i.e., the borrower), establishing a pathway for potential bias to influence the appraisal results. The race or ethnicity of the borrower is often disclosed in the loan data, making it possible to directly observe any correlation with value. On the other hand, in a purchase transaction, the appraiser typically does not interact with the buyer (i.e., the borrower) of the property but rather with the seller or the seller’s agent. The availability of racial or ethnic data of sellers and real estate agents is limited, thereby making an analysis of valuation differences by different demographics for purchase transactions limited or incomplete relative to the analysis detailed below using refinance transactions.” (p.3)
[9] At times, PAVE tried to have it both ways. On the topic of undervaluation, which is the main focus in the Freddie Mac analysis because of the negative impact on minority home buyers, the PAVE report stated that a lower appraisal can be beneficial to the buyer but hurtful to the seller as “it limits the seller’s realized home equity gains and therefore impacts the seller’s wealth.” (p.15)
[10] As noted by PAVE throughout the 20th century, the “federal…government systematically implemented discriminatory policies that led to housing segregation.” Not mentioned by PAVE was the U.S. Commerce Department’s role in implementing a zoning regime designed to keep Black and ethnic-minorities out of single-family detached neighborhoods (see Chapter 1, AEI Light Touch Density E-Book), the 1949 Housing Act which resulted in the high-rise public housing and urban renewal programs, both of which worked to the great detriment of Black households and neighborhoods, the 1967 Presidential Task Force on Housing and Urban Development (headed by HUD Secretary Weaver), which proposed a 10-year housing program to eliminate all substandard housing in the U.S. (source: Lyndon Johnson Library), that was enacted in the 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act, the consequences of which led to HUD and FHA destroying many American cities, especially Black neighborhoods (Cities Destroyed for Cash: The FHA Scandal at HUD), the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which created the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which has perpetuated racial segregation (Chicago tax credit program mostly produces affordable housing in poor black areas, March 15, 2021), the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992, which granted HUD the authority to set affordable housing mandates for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and HUD’s 1995 National Homeownership Strategy: Partners in the American Dream, which led to over 10 million foreclosures and did much to create the wealth disparities Blacks now face. All of these failures may be traced to HUD, or its predecessor agencies responsible for federal housing policy.
[11] Many thanks to our AEI colleagues Naomi Schaefer Riley and Angela Rachidi for many of these ideas. Please see their thoughtful analysis: https://reason.com/2021/02/24/fix-family-poverty-with-free-markets-for-once/