Despite the lowest interest rate on the 30 year fixed in six months, mortgage applications to purchase a new home fell last week, over 3 percent. In fact, purchase application volume has been falling, on average, for the past four weeks, which is particularly troubling in this, the supposedly busiest season of the year for home buying.
So what's going on?
I'm not going to boil it down to some generalization that there is no demand for housing out there, and everyone's afraid of falling prices. There is demand. Homes are selling. But an historically high number of these purchases are to all-cash buyers, because the mortgage market is just so tight. Fannie, Freddie and FHA rule the roost, and their new rules and fees are pricing some buyers out while disqualifying many more.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for stricter underwriting, given the brutal effects of the opposite. I do, however, believe that as government tries to shut the door on Fannie and Freddie, it must open the door to private mortgage investors.
That's why I was particularly interested to see the testimony today from the CEO of the only player in the private label game. Redwood Trust President and CEO Martin Hughes boiled the situation down pretty clearly.