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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For Churchill Fan & David

I'm tired, and this thread on SDCIA makes my point better than I can. Here's one person's posting on the horror of paying principle(sic):
Allow me to explain this another way...following your line of thinking vs my line of thinking, and let's see who wins the race. Calculations taken from:

Let's create an example

Brother Jeff and Brother Dan, both buying identical $400K houses next door to each other.

Brother Jeff, who believes that paying down a loan is "building equity" and you should pay-off your loans as quickly as possible, puts 80K down and takes a 15 year fixed rate loan at 6.0% interest, with payments of $2700 per month. If following Jeff's current logic, paying down a loan quickly is "smart," why not do it in 15 years instead of 30, right? Jeff is paying about $1100 a month in principle to start.

Brother Dan, who believes in using as much of the bank's money as possible, and never paying off the loan, gets a 0% interest rate loan at 7.5% interest with payments of $2500 per month. Dan is paying $0 per month in principle. He puts his $80K in a CD earning 4.5%.

4 years go by. Both Jeff and Dan buy new homes and turn old homes into rent houses, moving in new tenants. Their homes are now worth $500K, fully fixed-up and ready to sell.

Question: Did both Jeff and Dan get that $100K increase in value of their homes? Didn't they both benefit from the market increasing the value of their homes?

Question: Isn't that "real" equity? Does the market care what their mortgage balances are?

Question: All that principle that Jeff is paying, is it with PRE-tax dollars or AFTER-tax dollars? Principle payments are NOT tax deductable, Doesn't that make his actual cost HIGHER each month? $1100 is at least $1500 PRE-tax, and goes UP as the loan progresses, and Jeff is FORCED to pay it!!!

10 months later, tenants move out of both houses, leaving them both vacant. Both Dan and Jeff get in an auto accident that lays them-up in the hospital and they can no longer work. Their income is completely shut-off. Jeff's current loan balance, after down-payment and principle pay-down, is $246,175. Dan's mortgage balance is still $400000, but his $80K in a CD has grown to $100K and he can get his hands on it.

Dan works out a forebearance on his loan and makes half payments for 6 months while he gets back on his feet. He's not sweating because he can get his hands on $100K cash if he needs to. His contractor fixes-up the house and moves-in another tenant.

Jeff, on the other hand, has equity in his home, but has no cash on hand. The only way he can get cash is if he refinances to get cash out. That option is out because he is now unemployed and has no income to qualify. He could sell, but because he is forced to sell quickly he has to resort to a fire-sale because of the condition of the house. The bank looks at his house and figures they could sell it "as-is" for $400K, so they decide to foreclose. Jeff sells for $400K at the last minute, and loses his $100K in market gains. Jeff has to start over. He basically gets paid back his own money, the down payment and all of those principle payments, but he didn't make any profit. It could have been worse if the bank did take the property, he would have lost his alleged "loan equity" too. The bank doesn't care that he made all of his payments on-time until the auto accident.

This is "real-world" stuff. Stuff happens to all of us. Banks don't care. Loans don't care. In the words of Jimmy in the movie "Goodfella's,"..."F-ck you, pay me!" Contingencies for life have to be made if you are smart. People's lives change, and this includes you and me. Sooner or later, cash will become tight for anyone. Look at all of those foreclosures. Most every one has to do with an "unexpected change in life," loss of job/income, medical condition, divorce, etc. All things unrelated to our "investing lives" but ABSOLUTELY critical to the success of making those mortgage payments.

The moral of the story? Interest-only loans can be a great vehicle to assist your wealth building, if you know how to use them. You should always have an emergency fund as well. Being forced to pay after-tax principle payments prevents that from happening. You give it to the mortgage company where you can't get your hands on it easily.

Question: If you pay cash for a house, 10 years later have you built more "equity" in increased market value than someone who took out a loan for the same house? This is the disconnect that everybody has their umbilical cord plugged into and they don't even realize it! Paying down a loan has nothing to do with GROWING equity from INCREASING MARKET VALUE, which is TRUE equity growth. If you want to "force" equity into your real estate, paint it or landscape it! You can choose to do those things, if you feel like it, to build equity. The same can't be said for meeting your obligations of a mortgage payment if you failed to set it up that way at the get-go.

Question: Regarding the effect of inflation, what do you think was the size of the average mortgage for the average home was, say, 30 years ago? While we are at it, think about the average wage and take-home pay 30 years ago, and let's throw in average rent and the price of a candy bar 30 years ago. The average mortgage was less than $30,000 30 years ago. Today? About $150,000. Yes the average home size is a bit bigger, but across the board, what's relevant is the average due to the effect of inflation. If you had payments to make on a $30,000 mortgage today, on a house that was worth more than $200K today, would you be sweating about covering that payment? Noooooo!!! You would be thinking of a thousand ways to turn that equity into cash, wouldn't you!!! (Apologies to Ron Starr) But shame on you for not paying off the loan, right? No! Good job protecting your equity all those years, using inflation to your advantage, and keeping your cash where you can get your hands on it!

Question: When Brother Jeff get foreclosed on, is the bank nice enough to pay Jeff back his $80K down payment? Come on! He was a good boy making all those principle payments for all those years, won't the bank cut the man some slack? Noooooo!!!

Question: If you knew that there was no way you could avoid foreclosure, wouldn't you like to know that you are losing the smallest amount of equity possible to the bank? That you had your cash where you could get your hands on it to start over and not the bank? Nobody can foretell a downfall in income but IT HAPPENS TO EVERYBODY!!!! We all get squeezed for cash sooner or later. Just went through it myself. $100K in equity and 50 cents will buy you a cup of coffee...oh wait, make that a $1.50. Damn inflation! Try to buy your honey a steak dinner with all those principle payments you have racked-up in all of your rental properties. Cash is KING.

Question: Follow the money (see if you can figure this one out, Jeff)... the cash of those principle payments, once they leave your bank account, earn what interest and where? Does the house have anything to do with that transaction? Think hard...you have 30 seconds (insert Jeopardy theme music). Answer? Goose-egg!!!

Question: Once you have equity built-up in your rental properties and you want to get some of it out to have some what?...CASH...what are your options? Sell or Re-fi, right? When you receive those funds, aren't you getting back mostly your own money that you paid the bank over the years? From your down payment? From all those principle payments? That's money that came out of your pocket, isn't it? And now you are getting it back...how nice of you to provide it to the bank for ITS use. You earnied nothing on that cash while the bank had those principle payments and down payment, and now you are asking for it back and are now paying interst on it. Good job! So just who was nice enough to hold your hard earned dollars all those years to where you COULDN'T GET THEM BACK EASILY? Thank you bank for being so generous...NOT!

Question: Isn't it good for the BANKS to have all you suckers believe that paying down your loan is "building equity?" Suckers!!!! Why do you think the saying goes for loan officers to tell their clients "interest-only loans are only for rich people." That's right! Because it makes people rich who know how to use them!!! Rich people know the secret! Rich people know how to use their cash on something else rather than tied-up in the banks hands earning 0%!!!! Rich people know how to make more than 0% on their money, so they put that cash to work somewhere else!!!

Question: Why do you think banks don't flaunt interest-only loans? Because "standard" (who says they are "standard" by the way? You or them?) P & I loans PROTECT THE BANK!!! NOT YOU!!! The bank gets less equity if they have to foreclose on an interst-only loan! Each month that you mail in those principle payments, it hedges THE BANK'S position better, not yours! That's good for the BANK, not you! Your balance goes down, but your payments don't, do they?

Question: When the bank gets your principle payments, what does it do with that cash? That's right! They INVEST THAT CASH for their benefit, not yours! Follow your money! And then they put the interest earned on that cash in your bank account, right? SORRY! GUESS AGAIN!!! Why don't you add-up all the principle you paid last year on all of your properties and calculate the interest you could have earned on those principle payments if the cash was in your pocket and not theirs. How about if it was in your pocket in the first place? Don't you think you could have put that cash to work somewhere else? Those of you who still think you are "earning interest" or "paying less interest on remaining balance of your loan" with each principle payment you make have fuzzy logic that benefits the bank, and not your portfolio. You should re-read this paragragh a few times till you "get it." All you guys still doing 1-4 family residences that AREN'T using interest-only loans that are AVAILABLE are UNWISE FOR DOING SO!!! You're hurting yourself and don't even realize it!!! If interest-only loans existed for commercial properties like I have, I'd be all over it!!!!

Question: Add-up all the principle and down-payments you have tied-up in your personal residence. How much interest did you earn for the bank on that money? Could you have put that cash to use somewhere else to build your portfolio? Are you mad yet? I know I was when I realized I'd paid tens of thousands of dollars more than I should have to live in the same house! And can't get my hands on that money easily to use somewhere else.

Question: If you had an interest-only loan and pulled all of your equity out, would the bank be more likely or less likely to foreclose on you if you couldn't make your payments? Would they be more likley or less likely to work something out on a forebearance? If the bank had absolutely no equity to "steal" from you in foreclosure, and knew they would take a loss if they got your house, just how bad do you think they would want to foreclose? If you paid down your loan $50K through principle payments, would they want to foreclose on you more? or less? I hadn't thought this through until someone showed me the "secrets" Ric Edelman points out 3 years ago. I got mad, and so should you.

Question: If you took out a $0 down, interest only loan today on a $400K house, what will your rents and payments look like 30 years from today? The average mortgage? Using history as a guide, $400K 30 years from now will seem like a walk in the park, just like $3OK today would seem on an unpaid mortgage taken-out 30 years ago, and you will be bubbling-over with ever-increasing postive cash flow way before that time, as rents and personal incomes rise with inflation as they always have.

Question: If we slip into a Depression in coming years, wouldn't it be nice to have control of your cash? Let the bank get nothing? They can have your houses, but you have your cash. If a depression happens, don't you think it will happen before your houses are paid off? What will happen to your precious equity then, if you can't make your payments and your tenants stop paying? You will give it back to the bank, and lose all of your equity, that's what!

Question: If you don't have a renter paying you rent, wouldn't it be nice to have a stash of cash to cover the payments that you could get your hands on? Every month that you make those principle payments , you are gambling that nothing bad will happen to you that will affect your income.

They do exist. Most people are not smart enough to ask for them, or the right kind. They do exist, but loan brokers get paid to close loans, not educate consumers on interst-only loans. You should only take advice from people who make more money than you. Who is advising you on your real estate ventures? Your loan broker? how much does he make? You are breaking from the crowd when you start asking for these loans. Only "rich" people have requested them historically. Your loan may only have done a handful during their career, because they personally don't understand their benefits. Should that stop you? Are you comfortable going against the what everybody else does? You want to be careful with these quasi/hybrid-interest-only loans that REVERT to an amortized loan with a SHORTER payback period that can easily double your payment after the initial interest-only period. A lot of foreclosures are happening this way, because people took-out these loans and were not in a position to re-fi when the switch took place. You will be forced to re-fi with these loans basically at that point basically. Taking 10, 15, or 30 years gives you more time. Yes the rate is higher for 30 years, but you guarantee your payment for 30 years and let inflation do its thing, as described above.
See? Paying down principal is just a scam the banks worked out to keep you from getting rich, and only your IO lender can help you escape. SDCIA = San Diego Creative Investors' Association.

Your blog entry was very interesting. I am a realtor specializing in Tampa Bay Florida Real Estate .
And remember, the guy who paid IO kept that wonderful tax deduction! Yes, he saved $1 in taxes for every $3 he paid out!
Thank you, Mama. Can we talk about something else now? How about the talented investors at Amaranth?
Can you nutshell this for me? I always go mind-blind when I see numbers like this. I thought that the nothing down, interest only loans were a bad idea for people because there is no guarantee of equity growth.

Are you saying that it was stupid to put anything down on a 30-year fixed mortgage? And if it was stupid (we've been in the house 18 months), what can I do to rectify the mistake?
Dr M - No, I do not agree with this man's opinions at all. His numbers are fudged.

I posted this in order to show why so many people might have taken on such questionable loans. The pitch you see here is adapted from the option-ARM pitch. I had been arguing previously that we had seen predatory lending tactics on a wide scale, and that this is what is a big factor in the credit bubble.

It cannot overall make sense for any family to pay out vastly more for a home, which is what carrying a 4 hundred thousand mortgage for the life of your ownership would force you to do.
Amaranth? I had to pull a 15 hour day yesterday, but when I was driving home I heard predictions that it would go under. They said it wasn't going to have a huge ripple effect. I haven't had a chance to read up on that.

Kind of perilous financial times we're living in, right?
Thank you!

While others might get sick of your economic, mortgage loan posts, I don't. Whenever I wonder what is going on, I come over to you.
Morning Mama; 15 hour day? Hope you had a good nights sleep! The Financial Markets are liquid, and there is a great deal of risk reduction going on at the moment. No panic as we saw during LTCM. Interesting how similar the Amaranth situation is to LTCM. LTCM was a relative value fixed income hedge fund. Amaranth was (yes WAS) a convertable bond arb shop. How are they similar? Both took in too much money for their successful strategies, and got pushed out the risk curve. "Diversification" became "Strategy Drift". I suspect we'll see more of this in the weeks and months to come. I'm a free market guy, but money is too tempting for most people and leverage is too readily available. The Hedge Fund Industry needs to have oversight from some form of tough government agency.
CF - I utterly agree with your thoughts on regulatory oversight, but can you suggest a good means?

Part of the problem is surely that these hedge funds depend on complex models, and the underlying assumptions may be poorly understood. The reason why I won't touch this stuff personally is that while I can read a balance sheet, I feel that I can't detect chaff in their statistical noise. I prefer to do my own risk balancing; it seems less like a trip to Las Vegas.

How would a regulatory agency be able to effectively deal with such complexities? Regulatory agencies work very well when they enforce honest disclosure, but how would a regulatory agency enforce honest disclosure?

I agree with your assessment of the problem, though. I read that Amaranth is considered to present less of a risk to the overall market, but if I were a San Diego government employee, I probably would not be in agreement with that theory.
Dear Mama; As promosed, my thoughts on Hedge Funds. The solution is in theory pretty simple, in practice it's much more difficult. HF's are off shore entities, which are hard or impossible for legitimate governments to get to. That's the real life problem with the situation. If that weren't the case, many of the exchanges the funds trade at could review capital ratios, liquidity issues, record keeping, suitability ect. I run a hedge fund in an International Commercial Bank. We deal with regulators constantly. They review all our systems. Position management, Risk, internal control, I could go on and on. Their people are typically young, but that's a good thing-they're trying to catch you on something and make a name for themselves. We are required by law to have all these things running properly or we're out of business. And it's very expensive to have this all run properly. Is a hedge fund going to spend this kind of $$ if it's not required? Some will, but most are either too cheap, or don't understand that there are a lot of things that can put you out of business besides the trades. So the solution I guess, should come from the Fed, putting pressure on the prime brokers to require lots more information than they're getting now, and have the fed audit it. The street won't do it on it's own, as 1/3 of Wall Streets revenues come from the HF's.

As far as Models go, That's a Red Herring. Think that Amaranth guy had a model? Sure. Buy. Then buy more. Then buy a lot more. The more secret and Black Boxish it sounds, the more people are impressed. The most complicated things are mortgage prepay models, which are multifactor option models, seem to be well within your ability based on what you've written.
Very interesting. Thanks.

(For anyone else reading, you should know that banks are subject to special levels of regulatory scrutiny, so what CF is discussing about auditing is not true of every hedge fund.)

CF, more about this later. I have to be out of here at the crack of dawn again.

The situation you describe has interesting parallels to the change in the mortgage financing system over the last 5 years and the resulting collapse of proper risk weighting.

CF, I think the ability to make a lot of money in the short term introduces a bias toward creating an imbalance in markets rather than offsetting the risk of an imbalance in markets.

The regulatory scrutiny to which banks are subject introduces a degree of accountability on a longterm scale that is transmitted through to the shorter term, and resultant pressures on management. I think that it would take quite a bit to produce a similar set of pressures on Wall Street.
And darn it! (Now you've really got me intrigued.)

Mortgage prepay models haven't been all that complex. But what we see now is that an extra set of variables have been introduced into the equation going forward.

Complex modelling always depends on how well the fundamentals of the market are understood. When you have a rendering error at the lowest level, these models rapidly disintegrate.

For mtg prepayments, the overwhelming rise in high concentrations of risky lending has created that rendering error. Just one example - in some of these speculative areas, it now appears that more than 40% of "investor" purchases have been shown on applications as owner/occupier, and it appears that many of these loans are not singletons for the "investor". This changes everything about forecasting the life of the loan. Over about half of the dollar-volume home equity pool now appears to be destined for outcomes based not on loan type or loan characteristics, but based on area characteristics. That is a fundamental shift that most of these models haven't caught up with yet.
At the end of 4yrs. 10 months JEFF is actually about $54,000 *better off* than Dan overall, according to the example's own figures. Jeff has paid off this amount *beyond* what Dan has made even by having his $80k grow to $100k. Dan has just lost $54k compared to Jeff. Is that a plan?

You can't really make money by lending at one rate and borrowing at a higher rate. That's essentially what Dan is doing. He's loaning his $80k for a lower rate than he's borrowing it for - 4.5 vs 7.5%. Other factors as given, Dan lost about $54k compared to Jeff.

From there, you can imagine anything you want to make one or the other look better. But, obviously, you always want to be able to make your house payments, even if they are "only" interest payments. And Banks want to collect payments more than they want to sell houses. They will cut Jeff some slack.

However, if you want to "flip" a house, it might make sense to arrange an interest only payment. But you are gambling on the house appreciating, while kind of pretending that you are only renting it for a limited time.

The "burst" of the housing "bubble" is not good for those who have gambled for such a "flip" in which the increase in their house's equity would exceed their total "rent". If their house actually depreciates, they are indeed up a creek.

But it's great for buyers.

My advice is to have someone trustable like an accountant or a financial planner work out your whole picture before jumping onto the "creative financing" band wagon. "Banks don't care. *Loans* don't care."

What is a "0% interest rate loan at 7.5% interest"? You mean, "fixed rate"?
Morning Mama; Interesting article today.

Christine Harper
Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Reserve may have
to extend its supervisory authority to securities firms and
hedge funds to keep up with the growing role they're playing in
the financial system, said Timothy Geithner, president of the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
``We have capital-base supervision over a diminished and
smaller share of the system as a whole,'' Geithner said late
yesterday at a panel discussion in New York. ``We may come to a
point in the future that we may have to revisit both the scope
and the design of that framework.''
The Fed supervises and regulates commercial and consumer
banks, historically the most powerful institutions in finance.
While Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. remain the
biggest lenders, Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs Group
Inc., Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch & Co. dominate trading
and increasingly bankroll the $1.2 trillion hedge fund industry.
The relationship between hedge funds and the prime brokers
that provide them with margin loans drew renewed attention last
week, when Amaranth Advisors LLC revealed that wrong-way bets on
natural gas erased 65 percent of its $9.5 billion in assets.
Amaranth, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based hedge fund, said it met
all demands to repay the loans that financed its trades and
plans to stay in business.
William McDonough, 72, who preceded Geithner as president
of the New York Fed and currently is a vice chairman at Merrill,
the world's third-largest securities firm, said the central
bank's limited jurisdiction may pose risks.

Avoiding a `Mess'

While the current system, with the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission overseeing Wall Street and hedge funds
largely unregulated, can continue to work, it ``invariably
demands now that the Federal Reserve interest itself in
institutions other than the banks more than it had to in the
past,'' McDonough said.
``One would hope that we would not wait for a crisis that
is truly a mess for the Congress and the president to look at
the structural issues and decide to put in place a supervisory
system that is more appropriate,'' he said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified hedge
funds as ``an emerging threat,'' said Chip Burrus, an assistant
director at the FBI, in an interview. Specifically, the FBI is
concerned about the number of smaller investors gaining access,
mostly through pension funds, to private partnerships that are
meant for investors with at least $1 million, he said.
Hedge funds are mostly unregistered pools of capital that
let managers participate substantially in the gain or loss of
the money invested.

LTCM's Collapse

Geithner, 45, who was responding to a question from
JPMorgan Executive Vice President Heidi Miller, said the Fed has
``ample authority today.''
The New York Fed is the most important regional bank in the
Federal Reserve system and serves as the eyes and ears on
financial markets for the board of governors.
McDonough organized the $4 billion bailout of Long-Term
Capital Management LP by more than a dozen banks and securities
firms in 1998 when he was running the New York Fed. Amaranth's
meltdown last week was the biggest since Long-Term Capital,
which collapsed after leveraging $2.3 billion of capital into a
portfolio of about $125 billion of securities.
Paul Volcker, who was chairman of the Fed in Washington
from 1979 to 1987, before Alan Greenspan, remains critical of
the central bank's role in the Long-Term Capital rescue because
it concerned a hedge fund and its dealings with securities firms.

`Moral Suasion'

``This wasn't an institution that by law had access to
Federal Reserve facilities,'' said Volcker, 79, who also served
as president of the New York Fed in the 1970s. Just by providing
a meeting room for the fund's creditors, the Fed ``provided a
certain amount of moral suasion.''
None of the participants in yesterday's panel discussion,
organized by the Women's Economic Round Table, commented on
Amaranth's losses or their implications for the financial system.
Gerald Corrigan, another ex-president of the New York Fed who's
now a managing director at Goldman, also took part.
Separately, the New York Fed has been gathering commercial
and investment bankers to discuss the backlog of unprocessed
paperwork in the credit-derivatives market. Geithner said one
group will meet again tomorrow to outline plans to improve
processing for other instruments, such as over-the-counter
equity derivatives.
``There are problems in other parts of the over-the-counter
market that are sort of similar to some of the problems we've
seen in the credit derivatives,'' he said. ``They had a
compelling interest in solving this and a compelling interest in
showing us they could solve it quickly.''
Derivatives are financial instruments derived from stocks,
bonds, loans, currencies and commodities, or linked to specific
events like changes in interest rates or the weather.
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