We've all heard it. Those darn buyers, leaving the lenders out there holding the bag on these distressed properties, causing the national economic meltdown. They promised to pay their loans back and now the lenders are taking these horrendous losses!
Wait a minute. Didn't the lenders protect themselves from this eventuality? Let's count the layers of protection lenders used to minimize losses in the event of default on a mortgage.
First, the borrowers creditworthiness offered a layer of protection. Simply put, could the borrower repay the debt? Lenders ignored this in recent years and instead gambled that increasing equities would protect them if they ever had to repossess a home.
Second, the borrowers cash down payment offered some insulation. Again, many lenders were loaning not just 100% of the purchase price but in some instances 125% of the appraised value.
Third, an appraisal showing the current market value of the home offered some protection against loaning too much against a property. However, appraisers were hired by lenders who wanted to lend money and who wouldn't be hired back if they became "deal killers".
Fourth, what about mortgage insurance for high loan-to-value loans? Buyers were paying for it, didn't the lender get at least protection on the top 25% of the loan amount?
Fifth, what about credit default swaps? Didn't lenders at the institutional level hedge their bets in this manner? Can you say AIG?
Sixth, when the media reports that trillions of dollars will be lost, have they forgotten that trillions were also MADE? Where did the profits go? Check the CEO of a half dozen lending entities. They're not living in shacks.
Seventh, it's assumed these troubled assets have NO current book value. False. Just because they have become non-performing assets to lenders doesn't mean they have zero real value. Lenders, in my opinion, are ignoring their real value because it's profitable to do so. Which leads me to
Eight. The Final Layer of the Onion. You and me. The bailout kings and queens of the planet Earth. "Too Big To Fail" really means you and I are "Too Small To Stop Them." They can "fail" and still make money, enough to reward their top managers and employees with outrageous bonuses, trips, salaries that you and I couldn't begin to imagine. I mean, who among us would not be awestruck at the prospect of receiving a $160 million BONUS! Taxpayers. The Big Boys love us.
Sympathy for lenders? No. The housing crisis could be solved in a year if lenders would simply write down values to current market, keep owners in homes by offering a deal that would keep the lender as an equity partner for 10 years, have the borrower pay 2 points above par interest rates and let everyone start over. Can't be done?
Not if lenders rule the world.